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Unmarried Couples and Florida Probate Law – Why Making A Will Matters

On Behalf of | Nov 29, 2019 | Firm News

There are more than 7.5 million couples who live together in the United States without being legally married. The number of unmarried couples is rising all the time. However, if you’re not married and you’re in a long-term relationship, it’s extremely important to make a will. For nontraditional couples, estate planning is more vital than ever before. Without marriage laws to protect each partner, there are some additional precautions to take. Without them, life partners could end up falling foul of probate laws should one pass away.

Titling Real Estate

All too often, couples who live together fail to title their shared real estate properly. Sharing mortgage payments and living costs isn’t sufficient. Real estate in Florida must be properly titled to protect the other partner should the named owner die. The law, as it currently stands, is, unfortunately, not in favor of unmarried couples. If only one partner’s name is on the title and that person dies, the unnamed party inherits nothing. This applies even if both partners were contributing to mortgage repayments. This is a major issue that can cause severe distress and upheaval to the surviving partner.

Luckily, there is a simple way of remedying this problem. The cohabiting partner can simply have his or her name added onto the deed together with the note and mortgage. If the partner who is cohabiting has poor credit, this could be problematic. There is another option, however. The couple could create a joint revocable living trust. This holds the property and includes protective provisions that apply to both parties.

Proper Distribution of Estate Assets

Florida law entitles surviving spouses to receive a share of their husband or wife’s estate. This applies even if the trust or will tries to disinherit them. Unmarried cohabitants are in a very different situation. Unmarried partners have absolutely no rights to any of their deceased partner’s assets. Joint titling is one way to resolve this problem. However, if there are debt or poor credit issues, this is not advisable. There are other options, however. One is to draw up a will that legally distributes assets to the surviving partner.

Creating A Property Settlement Agreement

A Property Settlement Memorandum – a written list of all personal property – is a useful tool. A couple can reference this within a revocable living trust or will. It will ensure the unmarried partner’s personal property rights have protection against any other heirs to the estate. It will also guarantee that the cohabiting partner will receive specific personal items that belong to the deceased.

The Importance of Estate Planning in Florida

Estate planning in Florida is essential to guarantee the state distributes property and assets according to the deceased person’s wishes. However, for unmarried couples, it is doubly important to have a will in place. If an unmarried partner dies intestate, his or her life partner will have no rights. This leads to even more stress and upset at a very difficult time. You can avoid this by visiting your Florida estate planning attorney to draw up a will.