Question 28 
What will happen when one partner dies?

Default answer:  The surviving spouse inherits everything.
(Sometimes the assets are shared with any surviving children.)
Each jurisdiction on earth has an inheritance law
defining how property is handled after the death of the owner.

     If one partner dies without a will, the law of the state
in which the property exists controls how it will be distributed.
Usually most of it passes to the surviving spouse.
And some laws define a percentage (typically 1/3) for any children.

Creative answers:  The law also permits you to create an estate will,
in which you distribute your assets according to your own plan.
Even if your desired pattern of distribution closely follows the law,
inheritance will be easier if you have a written will
specifically naming your heirs and how much each will get when you die.
(You should also name any persons who might otherwise have a claim
who will receive nothing when you die.)

     And, of course, if you do not get married, then it is imperative
that you name the persons who will receive your assets upon death.
Otherwise, they will pass to people defined by law as your "next of kin",
which will not include your partner unless you get married.
Both of you should create written estate wills, which distribute your assets.
Normally you will name each other beneficiaries in your wills.
And if you foresee the possibility of a challenge from a relative
who does not know about your present relationship or who does not approve,
then it is even more important to have a will that follows your own plan
rather than the pattern defined by law for those who die without wills.

     What would happen if you died this week? Are any children provided for?
What about children from previous relationships?
Should step-children be legally adopted to make the relationships clear?
If you had a past relationship which is now over,
should something be paid to that partner in recognition
of the months or years spent in a committed relationship?
Or should your last partner get everything?
Social security now provides for vested interests for spouses
depending on the years of marriage
even if they later divorce and possibly remarry.


The page above begins Questions 28 from Designer Marriage.
One more page explores the options for preparing for the death of one partner.

Return to the table of contents for

Designer Marriage: Write Your Own Relationship Contract

Created April 9, 2009; Revised

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An Existential Philosopher's Museum

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