Don't assume that since you've been together "forever", you're magically considered "married". Whether you use the term significant other, life partner, long-term boyfriend/girlfriend, or fiance, if you are not legally married you generally have no rights when it comes to making decisions for your partner regarding health care, finances, or estate management. You also don't have the right to inherit any assets from your partner, no matter how long you have been together, since Washington has no common law marriage. Property owned by a person with no will or trust would be inherited by that person's children, parents, or siblings, depending on the situation. There are legal concepts that may support a claim that the surviving significant other owns part of the assets, was in a "meretricious relationship" and assets were "quasi-community property" and as such should go to the surviving partner in some fashion, but these claims often require court involvement, disputes with other family members, and a great deal of time and money to resolve.
The solution is estate planning. Single (unmarried) people should work with an attorney to draft appropriate plans using durable powers of attorney, financial powers of attorney, health care directives, burial directives, wills, transfer on death deeds, and other tools to put their goals into action. The default laws of Washington may not give unmarried partners easily accessible rights, but individuals can proactively make their own choices with proper estate planning.
For assistance with Washington state estate planning, probate and trust administration, call Megan Lewis Law, PLLC at (509) 557-7797 or complete our contact form. Our office provides local service for Spokane estate planning and can provide online virtual web and phone conferencing for estate planning in Seattle, Olympia, Bellingham and other areas of Washington state.
Megan M. Lewis
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