A widow with no children and no will has a live-in boyfriend. If she dies, can he make a claim on the house as a domestic partner or even a dependent?

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Question: My widowed sister owns a house in Florida and has no children or will. She has had a live-in boyfriend for 20 years who does not contribute to household expenses. If something happened to her, could he make a claim on her property as a domestic partner or even as a dependent? The family is concerned. – Jeff

Answer: The answer varies depending on the state that someone lives in. In Florida, unmarried couples enjoy none of the rights and responsibilities of married people.

That said, many of those rights and obligations can be recreated in properly drafted contracts, such as co-tenancy agreements, and other rights can be established by proper estate planning.

It would be difficult for the boyfriend to make a valid claim to the property when she passes unless he was helping with the expenses or paid for improvements to the property. Nothing can stop him from making a claim to the property, but the law would be on your family’s side in the situation you describe.

In any event, your sister should have an estate plan prepared. Wills and other estate planning tools greatly benefit the people we leave behind. For example, your sister may want her boyfriend to have rights in the property that will not be realized without a will. Or she may specifically not want that.

Plus, trusts or life estate deeds can help avoid probate along with its expense and hassle.

You and your siblings should have a sit-down with your sister to discuss what she wants to happen with her property. Many people are nervous or superstitious about having an estate plan, but even if she does not want one, the family will know her wishes.

Because this area of law can vary widely in different situations and locations, speak with a local professional about your individual needs and concerns

Copyright © South Florida Sun Sentinel, Gary Singer. All rights reserved.

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Author: kerrys