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Why Unmarried Couples Need a Formal Estate Plan in Illinois

 Posted on August 19, 2020 in Estate Planning Blog

DuPage County estate planning attorney

In the state of Illinois, couples and life partners currently have more options for how they can legally define their relationship than ever before. Same-sex marriage has been recognized throughout the state since 2014 and across the country since 2015. While some couples may wish to have the legal recognition of marriage, others may not. This may be the case in a variety of relationships, regardless of the partners’ genders. What couples who do not wish to marry must understand is that “common law marriage” is not recognized by the state of Illinois. This distinction has a serious impact on the need that unmarried couples in Illinois have for estate planning.

What Is Common Law Marriage?

“Common law marriage” is the term that generally defines the status of two people who agree to marry and live together but have not actually taken the legal steps required to procure a marriage license and register their union with the state. Each state sets its own guidelines for recognizing common law marriages. In Illinois, there is no recognition of such unions. Regardless of how long a couple has been together, Illinois probate law essentially treats unmarried partners as strangers to one another. Neither party is presumed to have any rights to the other’s property upon his or her death.

For example, consider a couple who has lived together for 25 years in Illinois but never legally married. One partner dies and their adult children claim rights to the estate. If there is no estate plan in place, and if assets such as the family home were not owned in joint tenancy (with right of survivorship), the surviving partner may face an uphill litigation battle to keep what would have otherwise passed to him or her if they had been legally married.

Unique Estate Planning Needs for Unmarried Couples

Aside from rights to inheritance and property, unmarried couples, especially those who live together, are at risk for a series of challenges if they fail to plan their estate proactively. For example, without a Power of Attorney for Health Care in place, an unmarried partner has no legal authority to make medical care decisions regarding the other.

Any resident who passes away without a will in Illinois is considered to have died “intestate.” Such a person will have his or her estate administered via the state guidelines regarding intestate succession. These regulations are formula-based, cumbersome, and rarely fit the vast array of personal situations possible for a person’s estate and loved ones.

Contact a Lombard, IL Wills and Trust Lawyer

An unorganized or haphazard estate plan is not a good idea for anyone, but it can be potentially disastrous for couples who have chosen not to legally marry. Life is uncertain and can change in an instant. Protect yourself and the ones you love with help from an experienced DuPage County estate planning attorney. Contact A. Traub & Associates by calling 630-426-0196 for a confidential consultation today.



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