There are 17 million Americans that qualify as domestic partners (unmarried couples that are living together). What was once a pretty rare designation and living situation, is now becoming much more common. If the trend continues by 2040 around 21% of American adults will be domestic partners.
Many people today find themselves in the position of domestic partner, but realize too late that the designation doesn’t guarantee much after your partner dies. A domestic partnership may be similar to a marriage in day-to-day life, but legally there are some key differences that become apparent after one partner passes. Those legal differences can dramatically impact the funeral services a domestic partner receives and the life of the surviving partner.
If you’re in a domestic partnership there are things you can do now to safeguard yourself and your partner so that you can be a beneficiary and continue making decisions like a spouse.
1 – Advanced Planning is Absolutely Necessary
The law isn’t exactly on the side of domestic partners in a lot of states. Generally, if no related documentation exists (like a will) then the decision making goes to the legal next of kin. They’ll also inherit any property and assets that’s solely in the name of the deceased. That can include a home, vehicles, land, stock and even cryptocurrency.
Domestic partners should discuss their wishes with each other, and then document those wishes so that they’re followed.
2 – Create a Last Will and Testament at Minimum
If you only do one thing it should be to create a last will and testament. As noted in point #1, domestic partners aren’t automatically given a say in body disposition and funeral arrangements under the law. They also don’t automatically inherit property, even if it’s the home they live in.
However, last will and testament directives take precedence over next of kin. If someone other than the deceased’s next of kin is named as the executor of the will, a beneficiary or in control of body disposition and funeral decisions then that person takes on the role.
3 – Sign a Legal Rights to Disposition Form
Let’s say all of the property is equally shared among two domestic partners and it’s also specified that upon death the surviving property owner would receive full ownership. There’s still the matter of funeral arrangements and body disposition.
You can specify who oversees disposition of your body using separate documentation. A Legal Rights to Disposition form is a simple and straightforward solution. The State of Texas even provides a template that can be used to assign an agent (the person handling the disposition).
4 – Buy Burial or Niche Space for Both Partners
If you want your final resting place to be together in a cemetery or columbarium it’s best to purchase burial or niche space in advance. You can choose to each purchase a plot or niche that’s side-by-side or purchase one shared space together. It’s one of the precautions domestic partners can take to make sure their remains end up where they want.
5 – Share Your Plans With Close Loved Ones
In order to avoid potential disputes or arguments, you may want to let loved ones know about your advanced planning. Let them know how your domestic partner will be involved so that they are prepared. This is particularly beneficial for unmarried people with adult children or a parent that may assume they will be the key decision maker.
Green Cremation Texas makes advanced planning easy if you prefer the simplicity and eco-friendliness of direct cremation. If you’d like to discuss what all is involved in advanced planning our team is available 24/7 to answer your questions.