Planning your estate as an unmarried couple

Thousands of couples in Texas are in long-term relationships but aren’t married. And while these relationships can be as valid and meaningful as a marriage, they’re viewed differently by the law, especially regarding the death of one of the partners.

As a result, careful estate planning for unmarried couples can be even more crucial than it is for married couples. Without taking active steps to create documents specifying your wishes, you can become vulnerable if your partner dies.

Important estate planning choices for unmarried couples

One of the most pressing concerns for an unmarried couple is ensuring their partner can make medical decisions if incapacitated. Without a living will specifying that your partner can do so, that power may be granted to another family member instead.

It’s also critical that you create a robust will specifying any property or assets you wish to leave to your partner after your passing. Otherwise, the standard rules of inheritance will apply, potentially leaving your partner in an insecure financial position.

Common law marriage

One option in Texas is recognition of your relationship as a common-law marriage. For a couple to qualify as a common-law marriage, the following conditions need to be met:

  • Must be together for a set period of time
  • Must be public about the relationship
  • Both parties must be eligible for marriage
  • Both parties are interested in common law marriage

If you meet all the conditions, you may be considered to be in a common-law marriage. This would entitle you to many of the benefits of a conventional marriage, including tax exemptions in the event of a partner’s passing.

As an unmarried couple, it’s extra important that you plan all the aspects of your estate. From medical decision-making power to your assets, create legal documents specifying your wishes.