The laws on same-sex marriage and cohabitation issues continue to change and evolve. As of 2012, Maryland law provides same sex couples who are married the same estate planning and estate preservation tools as heterosexual couples. The key phrase there being “who are married”. What about couples who live together in a committed relationship but who are not married? Without proper planning, things can go wrong quickly when someone passes away or becomes disabled.
A domestic partnership is essentially an alternative to marriage. Maryland law allows domestic partners to pass certain assets to a surviving domestic partner free of inheritance tax through a domestic partnership agreement. As defined in a Maryland statute, a domestic partnership means a relationship:
-Between two people (opposite sex or same sex) who are at least 18 years old.
-Who are not related to one another.
- Who are not married or in a civil union.
-Who are not in a domestic partnership with someone else, and
-Who both agree to be in a mutual relationship.
While married couples (opposite sex and same sex) enjoy certain protections such as spouses inheriting under Maryland’s laws of intestate succession, that does not automatically extend to domestic partnerships. Absent specific estate planning documents, non-married domestic partners face the following risks:
- Surviving partner not receiving any part of the deceased partner’s estate.
- Not gaining access to a partner’s medical information.
- Not receiving life insurance proceeds.
- Not having a say in healthcare decisions for a partner who is disabled or lacks capacity.
With proper estate planning documents in place, domestic partners can protect one another and enjoy the same rights and privileges of married couples. To get started on a comprehensive estate plan intended to protect a domestic partner, contact the experienced estate planning attorneys at Stouffer Legal in the Greater Baltimore area. You can schedule an appointment by calling us at (443) 470-3599, emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or register for an upcoming free webinar using the link below: