It’s February, which means that songs about love and marriage fill the airwaves. Craft stores are filled with red, white, and pink displays. Movie ads shift from action-adventure to romantic comedy. And, in a recent development, Valentine’s Day is now the most popular day to propose, having taken over that spot from Christmas Day in both 2021 and 2022.
“Goin’ to the chapel and we’re gonna get ma-aa-aa-ried.” – Darlene Love
Marriage has long been a celebrated institution in societies around the world. While marriage is still a modern-day goal for many couples, the timing and circumstances vary widely. Research shows that people are waiting longer to get married—the average age of a first marriage is now late 20s/early 30s. Many factors can influence decisions of “Do we, or don’t we, and when?” Also, couples are much more likely to cohabitate prior to, or in lieu of, marriage than in the past.
As a happily married man, I’m a fan of the institution. But I also recognize that it doesn’t always work out as planned, and sometimes marriage isn’t even the desired goal for a couple. That’s fine–no judgment here! Love is love, with or without a ring and certificate.
“If you liked it, then you should have put a ring on it.” – Beyonce
However: in legal matters, marital status really DOES make a big difference in Florida. It is important for romantic partners in the state of Florida to understand that current state laws offer significant advantages to couples who are married.
- Married couples residing in Florida can receive tax exemptions, major creditor
protections, and significant spousal entitlements to property.
- If a couple is not married, the state of Florida does not recognize the partners
as next-of-kin. This comes into play in scenarios such as hospital
visitation rights, health insurance coverage, and estate settlements.
- Florida law does not recognize domestic partnerships or common-law marriages. (With just a few possible exceptions)
It doesn’t matter how long a couple has been together, how devoted they are to one another, how much they’ve discussed their plans together, or even whether they have kids or grandkids together. In the state of Florida, the legal distinction is black-and-white: you’re either married, or you’re not. Period.
Given all this, estate planning is critical for unmarried partners. Without a Will or Trust in place, the death of one partner can easily result in a housing or financial crisis for the surviving partner, who holds no legal rights to things the two considered to be shared assets: a home, a car, a boat, bank accounts, stocks, pets, and more. Instead, the deceased partner’s assets will go to the heirs-at-law, whomever that is as spelled out in the ranking order within Florida statutes.
But don’t despair, lovebirds! There is a simple solution to ensure that wishes with regard to a life partner are followed: work with an estate lawyer to establish a plan. Even if the plan is straightforward, i.e. leaving all assets to the partner, a lawyer well-versed in Florida law can provide helpful guidance and ensure that everything is filed properly.
And when a couple’s status is best described in social media terms as “it’s complicated,” an estate lawyer is practically a must. A lawyer can help navigate life situations that, while common, can sometimes prove to be legally cumbersome in the absence of a Will or Trust. Some examples include: a previous marriage; a separation that did not resolve in divorce; minor children; shared property; outstanding debt; unresolved lawsuits; and the list goes on and on.
Hey baby, I think I wanna marry you.” – Bruno Mars
The Matechik Law Firm believes in love and is here to help. We are happy to assist in drafting custom estate plans that accomplish couples’ goals—regardless of whether their relationship is “Florida-official.” And for those who are not yet married but are considering tying the knot, it’s worth signing up for an estate planning consultation to learn how marriage would affect any current estate plans, or lack thereof.
Finally: We are a full-service law firm when it comes to matters of the heart. As a Florida Notary, I am authorized to perform the ceremony and would love the honor of officiating at your wedding!