Nov 2014

If You’re Cohabitating in Missouri, You Need an Estate Plan

Estate Planning in Missouri

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, more people than ever before are living together before marriage, with nearly half of all women between the ages of 15 and 44 choosing to cohabitate before walking down the aisle.

Although today’s society is generally much more accepting of cohabitation than previous generations, the estate planning law has yet to evolve. Just a handful of states recognize “common law” marriage, which in some cases permits a surviving cohabitating partner to inherit property upon the other person’s passing. Because Missouri does not recognize common law marriage (including common law marriages from other states), it is important for cohabitating couples to create an estate plan that protects the rights and property interests of both parties.

What Estate Planning Can Do for Cohabitating Couples

Estate plans, which can include a variety of legal documents depending on your goals, are not reserved for the rich or the elderly. An estate plan protects your property as well as the people you care about. By working with an experienced estate planning attorney, you can create legal documents that do the following:

Protect You in the Event of Incapacity

Many people incorrectly assume that they don’t need an estate plan because they don’t own anything – or perhaps they own very little. If you and your significant other are unmarried, your partner will likely have little to no rights in the event you become incapacitated. If you are involved in a serious accident or you suddenly become ill, healthcare laws will prevent your significant other from making health care decisions on your behalf. Strict health care privacy laws will even prevent your health care providers from discussing your condition with non-family members. Through appropriate estate planning, however, you can appoint your partner as your health care agent and authorize providers to release information to him or her.

Protect Inheritance

Under Missouri intestacy law, a cohabitating partner does not have the right to inherit property. Many couples live together for years, building a life that includes a home, vehicles, and other assets. Depending on how these assets are titled, however, the death of one partner can leave the other person completely disinherited. In many situations, a deceased partner’s assets have passed to his or her family members, leaving the surviving partner with nothing.

Springfield, Missouri Estate Planning Attorneys

A well-crafted estate plan can give you the peace of mind that comes with knowing your loved ones are protected. Contact the estate planning attorneys at the Law Office of Randy L. Smith, LLC today at (417) 841-2775 to schedule an estate plan review and consultation.

This website has been prepared by The Law Office of Randy L. Smith, LLC for informational purposes only and does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice. The information is not provided in the course of an attorney-client relationship and is not intended to substitute for legal advice from an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.