Will my assets be protected if I don’t marry my significant other?

States provide rights and obligations to couples who are married should they divorce.  For instance, in Michigan, the law provides for division of marital assets.  Some states do the same for couples who do not marry, but who have lived together for a significant amount of time. The provision for rights and obligations to unmarried couples is called Palimony.

The term, Palimony, was made famous by the California case of Marvin v. Marvin, which involved the breakup of actor Lee Marvin from his girlfriend, Michele Triola, whom he lived with for a number of years.  Triola took Marvin to court claiming he had agreed to support her financially even though there was no marriage and nothing in writing.  Michigan law does not recognize a non-marital relationship, or Common Law Marriage, and does not make any provisions for couples that are not married should they divorce.

With more couples choosing to remain unmarried, and even having families together, how can you protect yourself?  First, a legal contract that spells out your cohabitation agreement and what your expectations and agreements are should you split up is vital.  It is wise for both of you to hire your own attorney to write and or review the contract to avoid the implication that you did not understand or were coerced into signing it. Having your own attorney will protect your rights.

Since the State of Michigan does not make any provisions for dividing property, be sure that both your names are on all deeds for property owned together.  If you buy a house it should be owned by both of you.

A Last Will and Testament is important in the case of the death of one of the couple.  Since you have no rights of survivorship as an unmarried partner, creating a will enables you to inherit any personal property or assets that you have accrued.  In this way, your individual wishes of leaving property, money and items will be assured.  You both should have a will.  Remember, as an unmarried couple you do not receive social security benefits should your partner die so plan ahead to protect yourself if you do not wish to marry.

Nothing herein constitutes a legal opinion.

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