When a young couple comes together and enters into the bonds of Holy Matrimony, they enter into a sacred covenant to love and protect each other as well as a legal contract of partnership. Why do corporations form themselves legally? For the very same reason a young couple does - protection. The corporation does not have a formal ceremony where they invite future employees to witness their proclamation of commitment because their future employees will never reap the benefits, nor share in the responsibilities of the partners. Upon dissolution, the employees have no interests in the distribution of assets or funds, nor do they share the responsibilities of debt. These tasks and responsibilities fall squarely onto the partners, as outlined in the articles of incorporation. These articles of incorporation protect and insure an agreed upon share of assets and responsibilities, thereby order and protection are established at the beginning of the union.
The same is true for marriage partners. The marriage contract protects each partner against the poor decisions or behaviors of the other and establishes legal rights upon dissolution or death. I have seen many men and women come into my office believing they have rights to insurance, property, and funds for which they do not. Merely living with an individual does not offer another any rights whatsoever.
Consider college roommates. If one were to die during their college career, their roomy would be insane to assume they had any rights to the other’s insurance, property or funds. The decedent’s family would come in, clean out their loved one’s things from the dorm, file for the appropriate insurance and close any bank accounts or debts. This makes perfect sense, as the roommate has neither legal obligations nor rights to the decedent’s affairs. They were simply roommates, sharing the expenses of living space.
Men and women who simply live under the same roof, no matter their relationship, fall under the same category as roommates. When one has passed away, the other does not magically become a marriage partner with all of its rights, privileges and protections. A significant other, as does a roomy, remains a roommate in the eyes of the law. Significant others may suddenly find that the decedent’s family might consider them as a nuisance rather than a family member. The legal next of kin may not allow any consideration in funeral arrangements. Insurance funds, property, bank accounts, etc. will not be open to significant others. The term “significant other” does not carry the same rights guaranteed to a “partner.” It does not offer any protection or consideration. One might assume that if their name is on the title of a vehicle or a home, that they now have ownership of said property. Legally, if the couple were not married, this is not the case. The half that belonged to the decedent now becomes the property of their heir. The surviving significant other may be forced to sell the property if the surviving heir wants his or her share of the value. If the property carries a note, the surviving heir may want the property sold in order to pay off the debt and release him or herself from added debt. He or she might also want the significant other to buy them out so that they can move forward with their inherited value in funds rather than property. If the significant other were a spouse, they would be the next of kin and could make these decisions according to their best interest rather than being ruled over by the legal next of kin.
The only way to protect yourself when your significant loved one dies is to realize the marriage license is only a piece of paper allowing the legal formation of a marriage contract. Once filed, the license becomes a legal and binding contract providing protection of your rights and privileges as a partner and next of kin.
My name is Tracy Renee Lee. I am the owner and Managing Funeral Director at Queen City Funeral Home in Queen City Texas. I am an author, syndicated columnist, and co-founder of Heaven Sent, Corp. I write books and weekly bereavement articles related to understanding and coping with grief. I am the American Funeral Director of the Year Runner-Up and recipient of the BBB’s Integrity Award. I deliver powerful messages and motivate audiences toward positive recovery. It is my life's work to comfort the bereaved and help them live on.