What steps can I take to get the legal protections of marriage without getting married?

Marriage is something my boyfriend and I have been talking about. It does not
seem to be for us, but we are wanting the protections that marriage gives. If we
were to no longer be together, we would prefer to go our separate ways without
going through a divorce. We know that Power of Attorney gives rights/protection
for us to make medical decisions and see each other in the hospital if that were
needed. Living wills and editing wills/creating wills helps provide protection
in the case of death. What else is needed?

We are in Arizona.

Asked on January 14, 2018 under Family Law, Arizona

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

You can get many, but not all, of the rights and protections of marriage with good Powers of Attorney, Living Wills (also called "advanced medical directives" and/or "health care proxies") and mutual wills. These things can let you make economic decisions or access each other's assets/accounts, make medical decisions, and also dispose or direct the disposition of property in the event of death. The things you can't do:
1) You don't get the tax benefits of filing jointly;
2) One of you could unilaterally undo these documents--for example, change a will--and you would not necessarily know (there's no legal obligation to tell you) or, even if you knew, there'd be nothing you could legally do about it;
3) While you can direct what happens to any assets you jointly own, there is no support obligation (e.g. alimony) other than through being married, so if one of you relies on the other economically, he or she would be vulnerable. Even if you currently each stand economically on your own two feet and do not rely on the other, if one of you becomes disabled, the other could leave without any obligations.
Other things that will help:
1) Major joint purchases should have both of you on the title: e.g. cars, houses, etc.
2) Joint bank accounts will let the survivor continue to access funds in the event of death.
3) Adequate life insurance naming each other.
 


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