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Does registering a domestic partnership give us legal rights?

Many people who are not interested in getting married have questions about a domestic partnerships and what the legal rights and responsibilities are. It's important to understand that just because you register a domestic partnership, it doesn't give you any more legal rights than you had prior to the registration. Contrary to popular belief, domestic partnerships are not the same thing as a common law marriage, and you may be surprised at how much you need to do to protect yourself and your finances if you decide on a domestic partnership.

Registering a domestic partnership does not automatically make your significant other an heir to your estate. If you wish to leave behind any assets to your partner after your death, you must make provisions in a will, trust or other type of estate plan.

It's also important to ensure that you have legal documents naming guardians for any minor children that have resulted from the relationship. Partners wishing to let the other person make medical decisions in the event that they are incapacitated will also want to explore the option of designating a power of attorney or drawing up a living will.

Because a domestic partnership is not a legally recognized relationship, it does not require the same property division process as a divorce. This can mean that if the majority of the property and assets in the relationship were in one person's name, that person retains ownership of everything even if the property was used jointly during the course of the relationship. In some situations, it may be advisable to have a Relationship Agreement or Co-Habitation Agreement put into play and a family law attorney can offer more information on these.

Source: City of Boulder, Colorado, "Domestic Partnership," accessed Sep. 01, 2015

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