I will have been with my partner for 50 years in July, but we’re not legally married. Can I receive his retirement when he dies? I’m very worried I’ll be on the street after taking care of him all these years . What advice can you give me?
Lots of people will tell you that marriage is just a piece of paper. But that’s simply not true. Even if a couple is perfectly happy without that marital contract, there’s no getting around the fact that spouses are afforded a lot of benefits that aren’t t available to long-term unmarried partners. These protections often become apparent at life’s worst moments, like when one person dies or becomes disabled, or the couple splits.
Before I go any further, I want to address the minuscule possibility that you’re in a common-law marriage. Couples in a common-law marriage have many of the same rights as couples who are traditionally married. For a common-law marriage to be valid, a couple needs to live together in a state that recognizes common-law marriage — and there are currently fewer than a dozen — and present themselves as a married couple. The lines are quite hazy, and this is difficult to prove in court. So because few couples actually have a common-law marriage, I’m answering your letter assuming that you’re not in one. But if you think you might meet the criteria, it’s worth consulting with an attorney about your rights.
Got a Burning Money Question?
Get practical advice for your money challenges from Robin Hartill, a Certified Financial Planner and the voice of Dear Penny.
DISCLAIMER: Select questions will appear in The Penny Hoarder’s “Dear Penny” column. We are unable to answer every letter. We reserve the right to edit and publish your questions. But don’t worry — your identity will remain anonymous. Dear Penny columns are for general informational purposes only, but we promise to provide sound advice based on our own research and…