Unmarried Partners and Property Considerations

Image of GavelIt is increasingly rare today that a family is comprised of a working father, a stay-at-home mother, and children. However, in most respects, family law continues to assume that this is the situation. The law often denies unmarried couples, whether of the same sex or different sexes, the same benefits that married, heterosexual couples receive. A Houston community property attorney is available to help you protect the best interests of you and your partner when it comes to your property.

Protecting Your Property as an Unmarried Couple

While the law provides married couples some fallback measures in the event of a death, there are no such protections for unmarried couples. If an unmarried couple has no legally binding contracts in place and one of them dies, the other partner will not receive anything, with the property passing to the deceased’s relatives.

First, couples should determine whether they have qualified as common law married. Common law marriages are only available to heterosexual couples. These marriages have their roots in medieval Europe and permit a couple to be husband and wife without any witnesses or a formal ceremony. There are only a handful of states, including Texas, that recognize common law marriage today. Be sure to speak with a Houston property division lawyer to verify that status of a common law marriage and which state’s family law applies to your case.

Without a common law marriage, unmarried Texas couples should consider other options to take care of their loved ones in the event that one of them should pass away or that the couple splits apart. The following are some of the options that such couples should consider:

  • Create a properly drafted will or living trust. In these documents, you can specifically name to whom you would like what property to pass. A key benefit is that you can also pass on property acquired at some point in the future that you are not yet able to ascertain. The court would ordinarily handle this “residuary” property if you do not specify what to do with it.
  • Create a living together contract. This is not quite a will, but is somewhat akin to a prenuptial agreement in which you can specify who owns what property and how the court should handle the property in certain events.
  • Be sure to name your partner as a beneficiary on life insurance and retirement accounts.

Without the proper legal documents in place, the law can leave unmarried partners without a single item in the event of a separation or passing of a partner. Contact a Houston divorce attorney at John K. Grubb & Associates, PC to learn more about property considerations concerning unmarried couples.

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