In light of the new regulations brought on by the Coronavirus, many people have found themselves self-quarantined with their spouses and significant others, which brings to mind a topic that is particularly relevant in these times: common-law marriage and estate planning.

For many unmarried couples, who have lived together for an extended length of time, misconceptions about the laws surrounding common-law marriage can result in significant issues if one partner becomes ill or passes away. In order to avoid complications, it is important to understand California’s laws with respect to common-law marriage.

Understanding Common-Law Marriage:

In a small number of states, a couple can be recognized as a legally married couple, without going through with a formal marriage ceremony or obtaining a marriage license. Generally, in order for a couple to be considered common-law married, they must intend to be married, cohabitate, and hold themselves out to others as being married.

California is among the majority of states that do not allow common-law marriage; however, California recognizes common-law marriages that were entered into while a couple was living in a state that allowed it.

Estate Planning Implications:

Because California does not permit common-law marriage, it is critical that unmarried couples involved in long-term relationships take steps to preserve the rights of their significant others. For instance, you might want to leave a portion of your Estate to your significant other or enable him or her to make financial and medical decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated. In order to ensure that your wishes are followed and the rights of your significant other are protected, it is essential that you consult with an experienced estate planning attorney to draft a comprehensive estate plan.

Allyson is an associate attorney at The Law Office of Tony J. Tyre, Esq., APC, and offers free estate planning consultations. To book your appointment, please call 626-858-9378 or email