If you're young and have been dating someone for a number of years, you may consider whether or not you'll tie the knot. But if you're retirement age and are in a long term committed relationship, you should be considering what will happen if your partner passes away. Grim but true, many people who opt out of marriage later in life find themselves in a precarious position if something happens to one of them.
Take this scenario, for example: a 75 year old man owns a home and has a substantial amount of assets. He is in a committed, loving relationship with a woman who is 62. Having been a stay at home mom who is now divorced, the woman has little savings or assets, and as such is financially taken care of by her partner. They decide not to get married or register for domestic partnership. After all, they just want to enjoy each other's company and live out their lives together.
But what happens if he should die before her? She is left with nothing, and is legally entitled to nothing.
People may choose not to get married for a variety of reasons, and if so, I fully support that notion. Marriage is complicated and many older (and younger) people have had a negative experience with marriage. This is where a stellar estate plan can make all the difference. An estate plan that includes one's partner can help them feel secure, loved, and provided for should something happen. And let's face it - if you're older, something will definitely happen - that's just the way life goes. And statistically speaking, it's the man who will die first. And, if the partnership should break up sometime before this happens, well, good news! You can go back to your attorney and change your estate plan. Just like that!
Security, promise, hope, love, commitment - with flexibility. Of course, it goes without saying that you must set up your estate plan in a manner such that it can be revoked or amended. But any good estate lawyer worth their salt will tell you this.
Now, should you find yourself confined to your bed and deathly scared of Estate Planning attorneys, there is one other option. This is what's called an Oral Contract to Make a Will, or Simply a Contract to Make a Will. Make a recording or better yet, write down in your own handwriting that you wish to give your partner X when you pass away. The more witnesses, signatures, and other evidence substantiating your declaration, the better. The partner could then take that contract and file it with the court in order to obtain X. This would be costly and potentially risky, but certainly beats being left with nothing.
What's the bottom line when it comes to Estate Planning and Long Term Partners?
Estate Planning is a creative, flexible way to show commitment and love between partners when marriage is not desired. A solid Estate Plan is also a way to gain the sense of security and safety that becomes essential as we age.