What Are Domestic Partnerships in Texas?

If you and your partner live together in Texas and have portrayed yourselves as married, you may have entered a domestic partnership or civil union or you may be common law married. Contrary to popular belief, there is no required minimum amount of time living together before a common law marriage is formed in Texas. Legal experts from a family law firm in San Antonio explain that a domestic partnership and common law marriage takes many forms, such as same-sex marriages.

While most states no longer recognize this type of domestic arrangement, in Texas, it isn’t recognized at the state level, but still is in most major cities, San Antonio included.

What Is the Difference Between Domestic Partnerships and Marriage?

Domestic partnerships and marriages share the similarity of providing legal recognition of a relationship. However, their rights and responsibilities differ, as domestic partnerships don’t have the same legal weight as a marriage.

Estate planning attorneys in San Antonio further explain that domestic partners may not enjoy the same rights as married couples in inheritance, estate planning, and tax matters. If you’re in a domestic partnership and looking to create an estate plan that incorporates your partner, it’s crucial to consult legal experts to help you evaluate your options based on legal provisions.

What Legal Rights Do Domestic Partners Have in Estate Planning?

Estate planning is vital in helping families circumvent conflicts that may arise during asset distribution by facilitating a smooth probate process. It makes it less stressful for beneficiaries by helping you set lucid intentions and provisions to ensure your assets and benefits are disseminated to your partner if you wish.

Estate planning lawyers in San Antonio say you can exercise various rights in estate planning if you’re in a domestic partnership:

Property and Asset Management

Domestic partners can mutually acquire property and assets. However, you may experience property division and inheritance challenges without a comprehensive estate plan. If you’re in a registered domestic partnership, it’s advisable to draft a domestic agreement that clearly defines property division and asset management in case of death or separation.

Healthcare Decisions and Medical Benefits

Domestic partners can make healthcare decisions on behalf of each other in medical emergencies. You may also be eligible for health care benefits through an employer or government benefits available if you’re in a registered domestic partnership.

Debt and Liability

You may hold joint liability for debt accrued during your partnership, but it’s crucial to establish who has legal responsibilities for specific financial assets. Poor management of a joint account can lead to potential liability issues.

Parental Rights and Responsibilities

Domestic partners don’t have the same legal rights as married couples in relation to parenting, even if the partnership is registered.

Therefore, you must take steps to actively establish parental, adoption, and custody rights and provide consent for any medical or educational decisions regarding the new additions.

You may require additional legal documentation even if you are legal parents in a domestic partnership. Get the help of family law attorneys in San Antonio. Guardianship planning can be intricate, so it’s crucial to enlist the help of skilled legal experts knowledgeable in guardianship planning for domestic partners.

What Estate Planning Tools Can Domestic Partners Use in Estate Planning?

San Antonio estate planning lawyers who understand the local laws can help you create an estate plan that aligns with your domestic partnership goals and wishes. Some documents they can help you craft are:

  • Will: A Will is the foundation of a sound estate plan, enabling you to dictate how you wish your assets to be distributed after your demise. You can designate your domestic partner as a beneficiary of your estate. In Texas, you are not required to leave anything to your relatives or spouse. You can leave your entire estate to whomever you choose.
  • A durable power of attorney: If you become incapacitated, you can grant your partner the power to make legal and financial decisions for you.
  • Healthcare power of attorney: You can position your domestic partner as a healthcare proxy, granting them the power to make medical decisions if you become incapacitated.
  • Joint ownership: Property held jointly with rights of survivorship can be easy to transfer directly to your partner upon death, bypassing the probate process and guaranteeing they inherit your property without resorting to intestate succession laws.
  • Beneficiary designations: You can designate your unmarried partner as an heir to your life insurance coverage, retirement benefit accounts, and other financial accounts to ensure they receive the specified benefits independent of probate.
  • Trusts: A revocable living trust lets you move assets into the fund and stipulate how they will be managed or distributed when you die. Appointing your unmarried partner as a beneficiary or trustee guarantees them financial support and safety from legal disputes.

What Challenges Do Domestic Partners Face in Estate Planning?

However, domestic partners often grapple with various challenges when creating estate plans. For example, if your partnership is not registered and you inherit property from your domestic partner, it will be subject to inheritance tax. That may not be the case with inheritance from a legally recognized spouse.

You may not access your domestic partner’s health insurance benefits. If you do, the value of the benefit may be considered taxable income.

Other risks involve intestacy laws, probate issues, estate taxes, and benefit exemptions. Consult with experienced estate planning attorneys in San Antonio to help you navigate these challenges.

A Skilled Estate Planning Lawyer Helping You Create a Domestic Partnership Estate Plan

If you’re in a domestic partnership in San Antonio, consider registering the union if you’re considering creating an estate plan. The move can help you navigate challenges that unregistered domestic partners face when establishing estate plans. Skilled family law attorneys can help you utilize various tools and prevent loopholes that could void the estate plan.

Laura D. Heard Law Firm, Inc., is a trusted law firm in San Antonio that provides expert guidance and personalized services. Our skilled legal team can help you navigate the intricacies of estate planning for unmarried partners to protect your rights and assets. Call us at 210-775-0353 for a case assessment.