What makes a good “life partner”?
I say “life partner” because many couples in our area live together and/or work together, but have not yet married. Maybe your loved one has an estate plan but has not taken the time to update it to include you in it. You both are too busy to focus on estate planning. But this will work out, right? Everyone knows how committed you are to one another. Everyone knows you make a great team together. If your partner never gets around to updating their documents, who would ever agree to leave you out? You may not like the answers to those questions.
In my experience? Pretty much everyone would leave you out.
When you first got together neither of you was worth much. Maybe it was a fledgling small business that was not yet profitable. You were just helping your life partner pursue a dream. No need to get any paperwork showing you own anything, because nothing may have come of this business venture. You just wanted to be a supportive, loving partner, though you were literally not a business partner.
Some years pass and the business becomes successful. You draw a nominal salary only because you are cautious about the company. This is your baby too, and you do not want to take any more money out of the business than is necessary.
To take the business to the next level, you and your life partner agree to bring in a business partner who has skills, ideas, and capital. A partnership agreement is drawn up. You notice you are not on the agreement, but everyone knows you are the reason why the business runs like a well-oiled machine, right?. You think you are covered because you are listed as an officer in the business’ annual reports.
All of this matters, right?
Actually, no. You have no rights or interests in the business just because you gave your time and effort to make it successful, or because you are listed as an officer of the company on a business report.
Years later, your life partner suffers a stroke or worse yet, dies. What now? Everyone knows you are key to the company running so well. Unfortunately, that does not matter in the law. If your life partner has not named you in their estate plan, or given you shares in the company while alive and well, you are out of luck.
Do unmarried couples have rights in Florida?
Florida Law does not refer to a “life partner,” a “good person,” a “girlfriend,” or a “boyfriend.” You are either a spouse, an heir, or are named as a beneficiary. You have no rights to the estate regardless of how long you have been together and/or worked together. Morally you win, but legally you would lose.
What will motivate your partner to make a place for you in their estate plans? Perhaps health care or death of a loved one. If nothing that jarring has yet happened, do not continue the false sense of security.
You may just need to be the motivator. Perhaps it is time to sit down and ask your partner, “Is there enough room in the relationship for both me and your estate plans?”
Schedule an Initial Consultation with Jacksonville Business Succession and Estate Planning Lawyer Rose Marie Preddy Today
Are you ready to get to work on your business succession and estate plan? If so, we encourage you to get in touch. To arrange an initial confidential consultation with our estate planning attorney Rose Marie Preddy, please call 904-665-0005 or request an appointment online today.