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Estate Planning for Long-Term Relationships 

Estate planning for long-term relationships, whether you’re in an unmarried partnership or a committed domestic partnership, is crucial for ensuring that your wishes are honored, your loved ones are provided for, and your assets are distributed according to your intentions. As a Folsom lawyer experienced in estate planning, I have found that long-term relationships have become more common in recent years and therefore it is important that they are given proper attention in the estate planning process.  Here are key considerations for estate planning in long-term relationships:

  1. Wills and Trusts:
    • Create a will or living trust to specify how you want your assets to be distributed upon your passing. Without a will or trust, your assets may be subject to intestacy laws, which may not align with your wishes.
  2. Beneficiary Designations:
    • Review and update beneficiary designations on retirement accounts, life insurance policies, and other financial assets to ensure they align with your current partner or beneficiaries.
  3. Power of Attorney:
    • Appoint an agent through a durable power of attorney for financial matters. This agent can make financial decisions on your behalf if you become unable to manage your affairs.
  4. Healthcare Directives:
    • Create healthcare directives, including a living will and a healthcare power of attorney. These documents provide guidance on your medical treatment preferences and designate someone to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to do so.
  5. Guardianship for Minor Children:
    • If you have minor children together or from previous relationships, designate a guardian who will care for them in the event of your passing.
  6. Asset Ownership:
    • Consider how you and your partner own assets together. Joint tenancy or tenancy by the entirety can affect how property passes upon death, so choose the ownership structure that aligns with your estate planning goals.
    • In California, when real estate is held as community property, there is a presumption of survivorship. This means that upon the first spouse’s passing, the surviving spouse would become the sole owner of the property. This presumption does not automatically apply to long-term relationships.
  7. Digital Assets:
    • Plan for your digital assets, including online accounts, social media profiles, and digital files. Specify how you want these assets to be managed or closed after your passing.
  8. Cohabitation Agreements:
    • Consider creating a cohabitation agreement or domestic partnership agreement that outlines the financial and property rights and responsibilities of each partner.
  9. Retirement and Pension Benefits:
    • Ensure that your partner is designated as the beneficiary of your retirement accounts and pension benefits if that’s your intention. Some retirement plans require spousal consent to name a non-spouse beneficiary.
  10. Estate Tax Planning:
    • Depending on the value of your combined assets, consulting with a tax professional, in addition to an estate planning attorney, is advisable.  Together, they will explore strategies for minimizing potential estate tax liability.
  11. Review and Update Regularly:
    • Periodically review and update your estate plan to ensure it reflects your current financial situation, family circumstances, and wishes.


Estate planning for long-term relationships may have unique considerations compared to traditional marriages, but it’s equally important to ensure that your loved one is protected and your assets are distributed as intended. By taking the time to plan and create a well-thought-out estate plan, you can have peace of mind knowing that your affairs are in order and your loved ones are provided for. Seeking the guidance of an experienced estate planning attorney in Folsom who can help you create a comprehensive estate plan tailored to your individual needs and goals is advisable. If you have any questions about estate planning for long-term relationships, contact Thapar Law at 916-579-0605 or send us a message.

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