Imagine this scenario…
You meet your soul mate
You and soul mate decide to move in together after six month
You and soul mate decide to buy a house together
You and soul mate “believe” you will live forever
Tragedy strikes, you or your soul mate is involved in an accident and die
It’s funny that when we’re in love, it feels like we will live forever because we tend to live for the moment wholeheartedly. For many I believe that it becomes a case of “I will deal with it..” or perhaps it feels like they are being too committed? Reality check, how ready are you for this scenario? You and your partner are making a serious investment into each other’s lives but may forget to protect that investment.
Why do we do that?
From a legal standpoint, the courts of law will not recognise you as a spouse, in the unfortunate event that something happens to either party in the relationship without a marriage certificate or life partner agreement or a legal document along these lines. Neither you or your partner will have a say or claim to your loved one’s estate. The same estate that you’ve invested with love, time and let’s be realistic here … money too!
This weekend I came across two such scenarios…
The first was about Shane Crone and his late partner Tom Bridegroom, the second was about Hector Alvarez and Kathryn Williams. In Shane and Tom’s case, they had lived together for 6 years when Tom passed away. Shane wasn’t permitted to see Tom at the hospital. He wasn’t allowed to even say goodbye until someone had the heart to sneak him in. He wasn’t even permitted to attend Tom’s funeral. After having lived together, and created a life, a home Shane had no claim to Tom upon death and there was nothing he could do about it.
In Shane and Tom’s case, they had lived together for 6 years when Tom passed away. Shane wasn’t legally permitted to see Tom at the hospital, he wasn’t recognised as a family member. They weren’t married. They weren’t brothers. By law, they were merely roomies. Imagine the pain of not being permitted one last goodbye to someone who was your lover, your confidante, your … family? Shane was fortunate as the nurses eventually sneaked him in. He wasn’t even permitted to attend Tom’s funeral because of Tom’s family. Having lived together, and created a life, a home together with Tom, Shane had no claim to Tom upon death and there was nothing he could do about it.
This doesn’t only happen to gay relationships … it happens in heterosexual relationships too!
Hector and Kathryn’s case. They were engaged and pregnant, with plans to marry a week before the baby was due. Sadly, Hector was killed a few weeks before their child was born. He didn’t get to meet his daughter. Kathryn, although engaged to Hector wasn’t his legal spouse. She isn’t his widow by law and for this reason, she can’t claim any support from his estate.
What should you do?
If you and your partner decide not to get married but to live together as if married for whatever reason, you should both seriously consider signing a cohabitation or partnership agreement. Clearly document in writing for instance, how property owned together is split in terms of ownership, the expected role of support in each other’s lives you both play, and in the event of death be specific about the inheritance. The alternative to this partnership agreement is of course marriage, as it is the only other legal institution that protects the rights of a spouse. If you find yourself in this unfortunate scenario where your partner dies before you have had the opportunity to legally record your relationship, you could lose more than you bargained for, or like Shane, not even get to say your final goodbye to your loved one.
If you find yourself in this unfortunate scenario where your partner dies before you have had the opportunity to legally record your relationship, you could lose more than you bargained for. Or like Shane, not even get to say your final goodbye to your loved one.
Chat to a lawyer about a Cohabitation agreement, it will come at a fee if you both are not keen yet to get married just for peace of mind.
You can read Hector and Kathryn’s story that appeared in the YOU here.
This is Shane and Tom’s story…. “It could happen to you ..”