Cohabiting unmarried couples, who are not registered domestic partners, may be left financially vulnerable if they do not have an enforceable estate plan in place. A “cohabitation agreement” can help unmarried couples effectively plan for the distribution of their property upon death. A cohabitation agreement is a formal contract entered into by both of the cohabiting parties. Specifically, a cohabitation agreement addresses issues relating to rights and ownership of assets, support and maintenance, and division of property upon the dissolution of the relationship or death of one of the parties. These agreements are usually enforceable unless they are explicitly founded on meretricious sexual services.
The division of the couple’s assets at death is governed by California contract law and not community property law. This means that property acquired during the relationship of non-married couples is not considered “community property.” Therefore, upon the death of one party, the surviving partner is not necessarily guaranteed a portion of the assets the couple acquired during their relationship. Moreover, because California community property law does not apply in this situation, the names on the title of property often determine how assets are divided upon the death of one of the partners. A cohabitation agreement serves to ensure that both parties’ wishes are honored upon their passing.
For more information on cohabitation agreements or how to protect your partner after you pass, please talk to Silicon Valley estate planning attorneys at Lonich Patton Ehrlich Policastri. Please remember that each individual situation is unique and results discussed in this post are not a guarantee of future results. While this post may include legal issues, it is not legal advice. Use of this site does not create an attorney-client relationship.