Ruth-Ann E. Toups
Your Love Life Might Be Complicated, But Your Estate Plan Doesn't Have to Be
Those of us that were on Facebook in the early days may recall the hype around the relationship status option. In particular, you may remember the “it’s complicated” option. Oh how true that statement can be. Life can throw us some curveballs and we might find ourselves in a complicated situation. Perhaps we haven’t spoken to our spouse in many years, but we are not legally divorced. Perhaps we have been married several times. Perhaps we are cohabitating and desire that person to be treated as our spouse, or perhaps not as our spouse. Perhaps we are raising children as our own, but we have not formally adopted them. Whatever the situation may be, it’s an important time to update your estate plan.
You need a will to make sure your things go to the right people. Without an estate plan the laws of intestacy kick in. Think of the laws of intestacy like the State of Texas writing a will for you. They may do a good job, or they may do a horrible job. Either way, it will be more expensive and more difficult for those you love than if you write a will during your lifetime.
Don’t count on common law marriage. I often hear “we’re common law married, so it will be okay.” First, even if you are truly married under the common law definition, your things may still not go where you want them to. For more on that, check out this blog post. Second, while common law marriage does exist in Texas, its requirements are often misunderstood. Many individuals that believe they are common law married may not be. Further, if you pass away and we can’t ask you if you consider yourself to be common law married then it is up to your loved ones to prove or disprove that fact, which can be messy and expensive.
You also need powers of attorney to make sure the right people are making decisions on your behalf. If you are incapacitated and someone needs to act on your behalf the law often looks to your next of kin. This may not be the person you want making decisions on your behalf. And even if it is, in order for them to make those decisions they may have to go through a court process if they do not have a power of attorney.
If your love life is complicated, the best thing you can do for your loved ones is create a clear estate plan. To learn about the documents that make up an estate plan, check out our blog on the components of an estate plan. Most of my clients find the process of creating an estate plan easier and faster than they thought it would be. Your love life may be complicated, but we can make your estate plan simple.