Massachusetts doesn’t recognize common law marriage no matter how long a couple has lived together. Since common law marriage isn’t recognized, there are no laws that require that property be automatically passed on to a surviving partner after the death of the first and there’s no guarantee that one partner will be in charge of making medical decisions for another.
If you’re living together in Massachusetts, it’s critical that you have your legal affairs in order in case the unthinkable happens. Attorney Andrew Garcia of The Living Together Law Center identifies three reasons why cohabiting couples should prepare an estate plan in 2016:
Reason #1: When You Die Your Surviving Boyfriend or Girlfriend Doesn’t Automatically Get Your Property
When a person dies without a last will and testament, Massachusetts law controls how property passes on. This is called the “law of intestate succession” or the “laws of intestacy.”
Massachusetts law says that when a person dies without a will their property will pass on to a surviving spouse. If there is no surviving spouse, then it passes to surviving children. If there are no surviving children, then to surviving parents, siblings and so on.
One person that the law does not include is a surviving boyfriend or girlfriend. So, a surviving cohabiting partner is not guaranteed to receive any property from a deceased cohabiting partner.
Americans have become more accepting of couples living together before marriage and same sex relationships according to government survey results released yesterday. The same survey shows, though, that Americans have grown less comfortable with divorce.
In an article reported by The Republic in Columbus, Indiana, the government asked thousands of teens and younger adults what they thought about changes in U.S. family relationships. The results released Thursday indicate a drastic shift in attitudes over a decade about cohabiting, same-sex relationships and divorce.
Dartmouth Massachusetts Wills & Trusts Lawyer Answers Critical Question: Is my new spouse responsible for my debts in a second marriage?
The Living Together Law Center, Attorney Andrew Garcia, is an advocate for partners who are living together in committed relationships and for couples in second marriages. In this video, Andrew answers the critical question that many partners have about whether they are going to be responsible for debts incurred by their partner before they remarry or before they move in together.
Couples who are in second marriages and partners who are living together have legitimate questions and concerns about their responsibilities and their legal rights. For example, common law marriage is not recognized in Massachusetts and that seriously affects the rights of both partners in the relationship.
Get Trusted Advice from a Living Together Law Advocate
Trusted advice from an advocate who understands the worries and fears of cohabiting couples and couples in second marriages is what you’ll find at The Living Together Law Center.
Take the first step to getting your questions answered by contacting us now.
Massachusetts law does not recognize common law marriage. So when couples who have been living together (or cohabiting) decide to break up or when one suddenly dies, there is no “rule book” that controls how property is split up between them.
Cohabitation agreements are written contracts between partners who are living together. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court decided that it would recognize the benefits to be gained by encouraging unmarried cohabitants to enter into these written agreements called cohabitation agreements. A cohabitation agreement will govern a couple’s affairs when the relationship is terminated for whatever reason, including breaking up and death of a partner.
Massachusetts does not recognize “common law” marriage. Even if you’ve lived together for 7 years, Massachusetts doesn’t recognize the doctrine. Since there’s no common law marriage, when couples who have been living together break-up there are no real rules about how to split up their property.
When cohabiting couples break up some of the biggest challenges are dividing up the cash in the bank accounts and figuring out who has a right to the real estate.
Massachusetts does not recognize the doctrine of “common law” marriage. It doesn’t matter how many years you’ve lived together, it could be 7 years or 70 years, you cannot have a marriage under common law in Massachusetts. This is true for both heterosexual couples and same sex couples.
Only a limited number of states in the United States recognize common law marriage – nearby Rhode Island happens to be one of them. Generally, though, in those states that do recognize common law marriage it isn’t the number of years living together that matters, it’s usually the “intent” of the couple. They must intend to be considered to be married, they must act like they are married in the community, and they must live together (the length of time usually doesn’t matter).
All across the United States people of all ages are making a choice to live together in a long-term, committed relationship. Some simply call it “living together.” Some call it “cohabiting.” Lately the term “domestic partnership” has become more popular particularly in same-sex relationships.
For all intents and purposes, many of these cohabiting couples, whether heterosexual or same-sex, act like a married couple. They share bank accounts. They buy property together. They make major decisions together. They may even be raising children together.
However, technically they are not married because they haven’t had the official marriage ceremony.
There is a common belief that if you live together for 7 years, then you are married by “common law.” This is simply not accurate. Only a few states recognize “common law marriage. And, Massachusetts is not one of them. (The closest state to us that does is Rhode Island).