Many people believe that unmarried couples living together for an extended period of time may be considered married in the eyes of the law, but this is a myth, at least in the Garden State: there is no such thing as common-law marriage in New Jersey.
What that means is, you can cohabitate for years, raise children together, and share finances with your life-partner, but still not be recognized as married, nor have access to the privileges and rights available to those who are legally joined, either through marriage or civil union. A ‘common-law spouse’ has no legal standing in the eye of the New Jersey courts.
If you are in this situation, it is incredibly important that you do some sort of pre-planning for the disposition of your estate in the event of your death. The situation is even more urgent if you have children with your partner.
Here are some things you can do to protect yourself and your loved one, in the event of the unthinkable happening:
- Create a will to pass on any assets or property you’d like your partner to receive in the event of your death.
- Name your partner as guardian to any minor children you have together.
- Make sure your partner is named beneficiary to any life insurance or retirement funds you wish them to receive.
- Change the structure of your property ownership so that it can pass on to your ‘joint tenant with right of survivorship.’
- Set up trusts to pass on assets to your partner in a manner that lessens their tax burden.
- Set up Advanced Healthcare Directives and Power of Attorney if you wish your partner to be able to make health-care decisions for you in the event that you are unable to do so yourself.
- Have agreements as to how to separate assets should you break up…a cohabitation agreement, particularly if you buy real estate together or if one of you moves into a home owned by the other.
If you are in a long-term co-habiting relationship with your partner, and have any questions or concerns about what to do to protect your loved ones in the event of an emergency, call our office at 856-227-7888, or contact us at [email protected]. We will be happy to provide a free consultation to discuss your options.
The above is not specific legal advice nor does it create a lawyer-client relationship. Do not rely upon it without consulting an attorney to see how the information presented fits your unique circumstances.