Considering Unmarried Partners in Ohio Estate Planning

Considering Unmarried Partners in Ohio Estate Planning
January 11, 2018 Shannon Dawes
Ohio Last Will and Testament attorney

Considering Unmarried Partners in Ohio Estate Planning

Ohio Does Not Recognize “Common Law Marriages”

Estate planning and the drafting of a will are important for everyone to consider and implement, but they can be even more important for unmarried couples. The legal status of your relationship with your partner can determine whether your partner receives any portion of your estate, absent a will.

Many unmarried couples say they have a “common law marriage,” thinking the term means they have some marital rights because they have lived together long enough. But what most people do not understand is nearly all states in the United States, including Ohio, do not recognize common law marriages.

A common law marriage usually refers to a long-term relationship in which two people have lived together unmarried for many years while acting like spouses or referring to themselves as husbands or wives. Numerous states previously recognized these relationships as legally equivalent to a marriage, but only a handful of states still do so.

Ohio recognized common law marriages until 1991. Until that time, Ohio courts required that couples meet established factors before deeming the relationship valid under common law. Currently, the state will only recognize common law marriages under extremely limited circumstances, which include (per Ohio state statute 3105.12):

  1. The common law marriage came into existence in the state of Ohio prior to October 10, 1991 or in another state or nation that recognizes common law marriage.
  2. The common law marriage has not terminated by death, divorce, dissolution of marriage, annulment, or other judicial determination in this or another state or in another nation.
  3. The common law marriage is not otherwise deemed invalid under Ohio law.

If you die without a will, also known as dying “intestate,” the state in which you resided will divide your assets according to its intestacy laws. Ohio’s intestacy laws ordinarily provide sufficiently for a surviving spouse, giving him or her all of your estate, or half of it if you had children. However, in the case of unmarried couples, including those in unrecognized common law marriages, there is a real potential for the surviving partner to receive nothing. This is true regardless of the duration or nature of the relationship. The unmarried partner will receive a portion of the estate only at the discretion of family members or a court.

It is absolutely your own decision to marry or not marry. However, if you are in an unmarried relationship, you should not count on a court recognizing your relationship as a common law marriage. The absolute best way to protect yourself and your loved ones is to not leave anything up to chance. Drafting a valid will ensures you leave exactly what you wish to the people you love.

If you are wondering whether a will is the right choice for you, an experienced Estate Planning Attorney in Columbus, Ohio can help you understand your options. Contact Attorney Shannon Dawes at Dawes Legal, LLC, today by calling (614) 733-9999. 

Dawes Legal, LLC
169 E Livingston Ave
Columbus, OH 43215
Telephone (614) 733-9999