De facto marriage, separated sons pose complications for the will

Q. I I have lived with my partner for 25 years. We are not married and have no children together. She is not introduced as my wife and she uses her own name. We file separate tax returns. We don’t share checking or savings accounts, and we don’t have credit cards together. I own two properties, both of which were purchased in my name solely and entirely with my money while I was living with my partner. She pays me $700 in rent every month. Can she claim any of my property if I die or if we separate? I also have two sons, but we separated and haven’t spoken in years. Can they claim anything in the event of death? All three are mentioned in my will and each receives only a small amount of money.

A. Even if the facts seem to indicate otherwise, your partner could certainly claim that you are a common-law partner. She’d have a much easier time if you were to die, because you wouldn’t be there trying to prove her wrong.

You should consider hiring a lawyer to prepare a non-marital cohabitation agreement in which you agree, among other things, that you are not married in a common-law relationship. She will have a much harder time establishing a common-law marriage with this document in place.

As for your sons, they too could challenge your will. They could find a handful of arguments to have the will declared invalid. If you are treated as having died without a will, then both could inherit everything you own.

One way to prevent this from happening is to leave a large bequest to each of them, but with a clause in your will that says if they dispute the will, they don’t receive the bequest. If the dollar amount of the bequest is large enough, they will decide to take the money and not cause any problems for your estate.

The size of the bequest depends on the size of your estate. The more you are worth, the greater the bequest should be.


Q
Is there a sample agreement for two owners to use the same trench on one of the properties to run each owner’s two power lines?

A. Such an agreement should be custom-drafted, preferably by a real estate lawyer.

If you search for a form at the county law library, you might be able to find something to get you started, but chances are considerable modification would be required.

The information in this column is intended to provide a general understanding of the law, not legal advice. Readers with legal problems, including those whose issues are addressed here, should consult attorneys for advice on their particular situation. Ronald Lipman of the law firm of Houston Lipman & Associates is certified in Estate Planning and Inheritance Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Email your questions to [email protected]

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