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Difference Between A Life Partner And A Spouse

By Pantea I. Fozouni

May 21, 2020

What's the difference between a life partner and a spouse?

Some people don’t think there’s a difference between a life partner and a spouse, but I’m here to tell you, today, that there is.

All right. So, imagine you’ve been with the same partner for the past 20 years versus being married to someone for 20 years. No difference, right? Same amount of time, same partner, right?

Unfortunately, no. The law sees it totally differently.

Here, in California, there’s a huge, huge difference between being married to someone versus just being partnered with someone. And the changes, the differences between them are pretty huge

Community Property

So, when you are married, your spouse has a lot of legal rights and a lot of legal protections, and they’re basically considered within everything. Think about our state as a community property state. When you’re married with someone and you build with someone there’s a presumption that everything you have is community property between you two, even if one person is the one who’s working and earning, and the other person, let’s say, is staying at home.

But you don’t have the same type of presumption when you got a life partner.

Health Decisions

Okay so, we’re thinking property, not a big deal, right? Well, what happens if you end up in the hospital? If you end up in a hospital, your spouse is going to be your presumed healthcare agent, even if you don’t have another advanced healthcare directive, or other people named hospital’s, usually, going to talk to your spouse.

Are they going to talk to your life partner? No. Unless they are specifically documented, and unless you have specifically said that it is okay for a hospital to speak to your life partner, or for your life partner to make those decisions for you hospital’s not going to talk to them.

Hospital’s not going to allow them to make decisions for you. Banks are not going to let them pay your bills and keep the lights on until you come out of that hospital.

And heaven forbid, if you die the law’s going to make no provisions for your life partner at all.

What are your Options?

You can get married, definitely an option. A good option for lots of people. But let’s say you don’t want to get married for whatever reason, it’s still important to make sure that they are provided for and taken care of. And the best way you can do that is by being proactive, and by completing your estate plan, if you start doing that, you can name them in your advanced healthcare directives, and your powers of attorney.

You can provide for them in a will.

You can also make sure that if you have more assets and you need a trust in place that they’re going to be provided for in that trust as well. You guys have been together for so long, you guys wouldn’t have been, if you weren’t important to each other, so make sure to take that final step to make sure that they really are protected and taken care of if, heaven forbid, anything happens to you.

This is Pantea Fozouni with Palm Desert Law Group, and more than happy to talk to you, and help you out. And make sure that your life partner’s taken care of and protected within your plan. 

This article is a service of Pantea I. Fozouni, Family Business Lawyer®. We don’t just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That’s why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session™, during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before and make all the best choices for the people you love. Go online today to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session and find out how to get this $750 session at no charge.

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