Love Doesn't Always Equal Marriage: Understanding Your Domestic Partnership Rights

Many states in the U.S. are beginning to recognize domestic partnerships between same sex couples and unmarried heterosexuals, and more states are legalizing gay marriage. However, the couples who decide that love does not always equal marriage struggle to gain the same rights as married couples, there are some things they can do address the drawbacks and limitations they face. If you are living in domestic partnership, you can take some additional legal steps to provide your partner with some of the same rights and benefits associated with married couples. 

Create Joint Property

If you want people to recognize you and your partner are a committed couple, make your bank accounts and other important property joint property. This way you are both equal owners in the eyes of the law. You can also purchase important assets as joint owners with the right of survivorship. This legal step guarantees that when one partner dies, the other will inherit 100 percent of the property, and the assets don't have to go through the probate process. 

Plan For The Future 

While it's important for all people to draw up a will, it is doubly important for domestic partnership couples. Remembering your partner in your will guarantees that your last wishes are granted, and your partner is cared for as you wish when you die. Giving your partner a durable power of attorney is also an option. This gives him or her the ability to make decisions on your behalf if you are physically or mentally unable to do so. This means your partner can make both financial and business transactions and decisions. 

There is also the option of giving your partner a durable power of attorney for you health care. This document ensures that your partner can make medical decisions for you if you become critically ill and cannot make those decisions on your own. A medical power of attorney gives your partner the legal right to be consulted about your care and treatment options. He or she can make decisions for you based on your wishes. 

You can make your partner the beneficiary of your life insurance policy, retirement account, employee benefit plan or other policies you wish. 

Voluntarily Give Yourself Other Rights

You and your partner can give each other certain rights and responsibilities, which can include those that are automatically given to married couples. You can set up a legally-binding cohabitation agreement. In this agreement, you can spell out how you are to share living expenses and property. You can also include how you'd like to split assets and property if you decide to split up. You'll need to speak to a family attorney who can help you draw up the agreement to ensure it is legally binding. 

Maybe marriage isn't in your future, but that doesn't mean you don't love your significant other and want to provide for them, just as any married couple can and would. If you have questions about taking action to stand up and make sure your rights are recognized, contact an attorney, such as Law Offices of Lynda Latta, LLC, to assist you in making your partnership legal.