Protecting your future as a unmarried couple in Arizona

Many cohabitating couples throughout the nation are increasingly choosing to live together without getting married. This could potentially pose several problems for cohabitating couples living in Arizona. The "Grand Canyon state" currently does not recognize common-law marriage. This could potentially mean that even if you lived with a person for 20 years, you still would not be entitled to many of the same protections afforded to a couple married for only one day.

We previously wrote about this in one of our earlier blog posts. In that article, we discussed how in some rare cases, Arizona will recognize common-law marriages of couples who moved to Arizona from other common-law marriage states. Common-law marriages generally allow for both partners to have equal claim to the property and debts acquired in those unions. However, Arizona laws will invalidate those common-law marriages in cases where a cohabitating partner leaves the state an attempt to evade certain marriage laws.

If you are currently cohabitating, you also need to know that Arizona laws allow you to form legally valid and enforceable agreements with your partner even if you are not married. Sometimes called partnership agreements or cohabitation agreements, these documents can protect both of your interests in various ways. For example, your agreement can specify ownership of property and assets belonging to each individual. Your agreement can also specify how those items should be divided if you and your partner should choose to separate.

Another thing that cohabitating couples often overlook is what would happen to their property and assets in the unfortunate event of death. When someone dies without a will, that person is said to have died "intestate". Arizona's intestacy laws do not provide for a succession of property or assets from an intestate decedent to non-family members.

Fortunately, you can still create a will that will allow you to designate your partner as a beneficiary of your estate after you die. An attorney experienced in Arizona's cohabitation and estate planning laws can assist you with preparing those documents so that they are valid and legally enforceable.

Based in Phoenix, our law firm has over 30 years of combined experience proving legal advocacy for clients throughout Maricopa County and the surrounding areas. Prospective clients should know that they can meet with one of our attorneys and discuss their cases confidentially.

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