Cohabitation and estate planning in California

In California, there is no such thing as common law marriage. This means that unless a couple is married, a domestic partner or cohabitating partner may not claim any asset as his or hers unless stated in the deceased person's will. Unless that person or another person is named on the deed for a home or was named as a beneficiary, property would normally go to any children of the deceased.

In most cases, verbal promises to receive property or cash can be difficult to prove in court. One tactic may be to argue that there was a contract to make a will. However, this may also be hard to prove without anything in writing or any witnesses to such a contract. Ideally, an individual who plans to pass property to another person will create a will or revocable trust.

That trust could declare that a child owns a family home while a live-in partner has the right to use the home until that person dies. This would allow property to stay in the family while making allowances for others who may have been important to the deceased person. Without such a document, it is possible that state law may determine who gets a person's assets after he or she passes away.

By creating a will, an individual may determine who gets to keep or have control over that person's real property and other accounts. A revocable trust may make it possible for an estate to avoid probate and allow beneficiaries to obtain their inheritance in a timely manner. Talking to an estate planning attorney may make it easier to create a will or trust that adheres to state law and may be likely to hold up to any legal challenges.


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