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Palm Springs Law Blog

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Probate and Long-term California Cohabitants

While marriage used to be standard for cohabitation, such is no longer the case. Many people choose to cohabitate with each other without being married. However, despite the absence of a marriage certificate, long-term partners or companions are often as dedicated and connected as those who are married. The main difference though is that probate law does not afford long-term partners the same rights as spouses or legally registered domestic partners. Therefore, when one partner passes away, the other often does not receive anything.

A Spouse’s Right to Inherit Property

Under California law, spouses have the right to inherit all of the community property between themselves and their spouses as well as a large portion of their partner’s separate property when they pass away. Spouses benefit in that they:

  • Have priority in being appointed as the administrator of their deceased spouse’s estate;
  • May bring a spousal property petition;
  • May qualify for a spousal probate homestead;
  • May have the right to a family allowance; and/or
  • May claim to have been inadvertently omitted from their deceased spouse’s estate plan.

A Long-term Cohabitant’s Right to Inherit Property

This is very different than the rights of a long-term cohabitant. Without an existing Will or other estate-planning documents, a long-term cohabitating partner is not entitled to anything. Without such documents, when an individual dies, his or her estate will pass as provided by the laws of intestate succession to his or her children, then to parents, or siblings.

So what can you do to protect your rights to your partner’s estate? Although it may not be on your agenda, if you want to have rights to your partner’s estate or you want your partner to have the same to yours, the simplest way is to get married. However, whether or not you want to get married, it’s important to consult with a knowledgeable and experienced estate-planning attorney who can help you to prepare the proper documents to fulfill your wishes.

It’s important to note that registered domestic partners (RDPs) are entitled to the same protections, rights, and benefits as those who are legally married spouses, under California law. The rights of RDPs are interchangeable for those of spouses in California.

Heritage Legal, PC Helps Those in California to with Their Comprehensive Estate Planning Needs

To ensure that you and your loved ones are protected when you pass, it is wise to consult with a knowledgeable and experienced California estate planning attorney. They can work to ensure that your wishes will be carried out in the manner in which you desire.

At Heritage Legal, PC, we understand the importance of protecting the very things that you care about the most. We can help you to establish a comprehensive estate plan that meets your needs and the needs of your family. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, contact us today!


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