Understanding Domestic Partnership law in California is very important if you’re not married. In this ‘Tale of Caution’ video, Bridget tells the unfortunate story of an unmarried woman who thought she had the protection of Domestic Partnership, but by California law did not.

Hi there! Bridget Mackay here. I’m an attorney in Petaluma, California working in an estate planning and elder law.

I want to talk today about domestic partnership. This is really a Tale of Caution because I had a client come in whose partner had died. They had been together for 28 years. Lived in the same house. However, her partner owned the house and that she was under the thought that they were a domestic partnership. In California there is only domestic partnerships allowed and acknowledged if you are 65 and older and a heterosexual couple. Or, you’re a homosexual, same sex couple.

She was a heterosexual couple and she had which… they call each other partner, but that doesn’t legally distinguish them as domestic partners. Why would you want to be a domestic partner in California and be registered with the Secretary of State of California? Because if one of the partners dies, you basically have all the rights that a spouse does. So, you would inherit their assets. In the case of this client, they were not registered domestic partners. They just called themselves that. And so, the house with which she shared with her partner for 28 years, and she just lost her partner, she has no right to. So, his children can file a probate and they will receive that house. She has to move herself and all her things from the house as a result.

Another way to solve this problem is not necessarily to seek a domestic partnership or get married but, you could create a trust with that partner. In which you would place the house in the trust. And then, she and her partner could have determined how things were to go if he were to die and it would not have included her having to move out abruptly. So, if you were in that situation, you really do want to go see an estate planning attorney who knows what they’re doing.


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