Cohabitation statistics continue to rise in the United States. The 2010 U.S. Census Report revealed that an increased number of senior citizens are cohabiting without getting married. Cohabitation can provide the companionship of a serious relationship without some of the financial complications of marriage. Some seniors prefer the less formal relationship to the possibility of losing their former spouses’ pension or Social Security benefits or affecting the inheritance of their children. Nonetheless, cohabitation comes with its own legal issues and it is still important for cohabiting persons to protect their legal rights.
A cohabitation agreement is recommended for cohabiting couples. In such an agreement, the couple can decide how a number of issues will be handled, including dividing expenses and determining property and support rights if the relationship terminates. It defines the scope of the relationship and obligations resulting therefrom.
If a cohabiting person intends for his or her partner to inherit from him or her, it is critical that estate planning documents provide for same. Although Florida recognizes valid common law marriages created in other states, no common law marriage can be created in Florida. Simply cohabiting in Florida will not give the cohabiting couple any estate rights.
Likewise, unmarried couples have no right to make medical decisions for one another. It is essential for a cohabiting person to designate a health care surrogate and appoint the person(s) that will have a say in medical decisions.
Lastly, a durable power of attorney is recommended if a cohabiting person wants his or her partner to have the power to make financial decisions for him or her. Without a durable power of attorney appointing the partner, the partner will have no ability to access the finances of the other person to pay the other person’s bills.
Our firm can assist with the above-referenced legal planning. If you would like to speak to an attorney about any of the above planning devices, please contact us to schedule an appointment.