Committed Intimate Relationships And Estate Planning In Washington State

Posted: Apr 30, 2019

By: Washington State Estate Planning & Probate Lawyer Casey E. Clifton

What is a Committed Intimate Relationship?

In Washington State, common-law marriage—legal recognition of marriage without having formally registered their relationship—is not lawful.  However, Washington courts have adopted a definition for a long-term, unmarried relationship known as a committed intimidate relationship (“CIR”). The existence of a CIR creates a presumption that all property acquired during the relationship is owned by both parties.

A court must examine several factors to determine whether a relationship qualifies as a CIR:

  • How long has the couple been together/lived together?
  • Was the cohabitation continuous?
  • Did the parties present themselves as a long-term, committed couple?
  • Did the couple intend to be in a long term committed relationship?
  • Did the couple share bank accounts, credit cards, etc.?
  • Did the couple include each other in their wills?

Estate Planning in a CIR

The final factor in the list that courts utilize is an important question and can help demonstrate the existence or nonexistence of a CIR.  The decision to include a partner in your will requires a lot of thought and discussion.  When done correctly, estate planning within the context of a CIR can prevent future conflict and provide clarity for all involved parties.

Failing to Include Your Partner in Your Will – Repercussions

When partners fail to include each other in their wills, many problems can occur.  Frequently, we see a partner not included in a will believe they are entitled to certain property from the deceased partner’s estate.  Because there is no formally recognized marriage, a partner must initiate litigation in order to receive the property they feel they are entitled to.  This is something no one ever wants to endure, especially after the loss of a loved one.

To prevent problems leading to litigation, consider updating your estate planning documents to include the partner in your committed intimate relationship. The lawyers at Beresford Booth hold years of experience counseling individuals in the construction of their estate planning documents.  We would be pleased to sit down with you and help ensure the fulfillment of your wishes regarding your estate.

Beresford Booth PLLC (425.776.4100),

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