Throughout the country, including Florida, couples often cohabitate outside of marriage. However, under state law, unmarried cohabitating partners have none of the legal rights that married couples have. As a result, if cohabitating partners separate or break up or one partner passes away, the law makes no provisions for the division of assets as it would for a married couple. With careful asset protection planning, you could avoid losing the joint assets you have contributed to and worked so hard to accrue over the years. Fortunately, you have options for ensuring that you protect your rights to joint assets, whether your relationship ends in separation, or your partner passes away. A Florida asset protection lawyer at Kramer Green can evaluate your situation and determine the best forms of asset protection for you.
Execute a Will or Trust to Reflect Your Wishes for Your Property.
Many individuals put off estate planning because they believe that they don’t have sufficient assets or feel that they are too young to worry about it. However, an untimely death can occur at any time, and if you have no estate plan, an unmarried surviving partner likely will have no claim to any of your assets. As a result, executing a will leaving specific assets to your surviving partner is one mechanism for ensuring that your wishes for your assets are carried out after your death. Having a will also helps avoid the unfortunate situation in which your assets go to your next-of-kin, which may differ from what you intended.
Another common estate planning technique is to create a trust, which can exist in varying forms based on your needs. You can then transfer assets into the trust for distribution to the named beneficiaries after your death according to the trust document’s terms. A trust can help avoid lengthy and expensive probate proceedings. You also typically want to execute a pour-over will, which transfers any of your property inadvertently left out of the trust into the trust for future distribution.
Change the Deed to Any Real Estate You Own.
Suppose one partner owns real estate titled solely in their name. In that case, the other partner will have no legal claim to that property following the owner’s death, even if the surviving partner lived there for years. Even worse, if there is no will stating otherwise, real estate ownership will pass to the next of kin, not to the surviving partner, since the partners were not married, no matter the length of their relationship.
While having a will can remedy this problem, another way to resolve this issue and avoid probate in the case of cohabitating partners is to add the partner’s name to the real estate deed so that both partners have an ownership interest in the property. If the relationship breaks up, the cohabitating partners each will own a share of the property. If one partner passes away, the surviving partner may own a share in the decedent’s property, although the extent of that share depends on how exactly the property is titled.
Periodically Review and Update Beneficiary Designations to Reflect Cohabitating Partners.
Some non-probate assets pass to designated beneficiaries after the owner’s death. These assets include life insurance policies, IRAs, 401(k) plans, some pension plans, and annuities. By naming your cohabitating partner as your designated beneficiary on any or all these policies or accounts, you can ensure that your partner receives those funds after your death.
Consider a Domestic Partnership Cohabitation Agreement.
A domestic partnership cohabitation agreement can be ideal for unmarried couples who choose to live together. This agreement can outline how the couple will handle their assets and financial obligations during the relationship. It also can dictate the division of any joint assets and debts if the relationship ends. In this respect, a domestic partnership cohabitation agreement is similar to a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement for a married couple.
Allow Us to Assist You with Your Asset Protection Needs Today
An asset protection attorney at Kramer, Green, Zuckerman, Greene & Buchsbaum, P.A. can provide you with the assistance that you need to protect your personal and business assets from creditors. We know how to provide you with the maximum asset protection available to safeguard the wealth that you have worked to accumulate over time. Call us today at (954) 966-2112 or contact us online to set up a time to discuss your legal issues with our experienced asset protection lawyers.