It is not uncommon that two people live together as a couple for many years without legally formalizing the relationship and without having a Last Will and Testament prepared before one of them dies. The surviving partner often seeks to inherit the other partner's assets based on verbal promises or commitments. However, since Nevada law does not recognize either so-called common law marriages or oral wills, the survivor has no legal standing to inherit from the other.
In order for a couple to have rights of inheritance from one another, they must take one of the following steps:
Entering into a marriage or duly registered domestic partnership.
Putting the title to assets in joint ownership.
Preparing a valid Last Will and Testament or a Living Trust which provides for the other partner upon death.
In the absence of any of these actions, the laws of the state will determine who will inherit the property of the deceased partner. Generally, it will be the next of kin who will be deemed to be the legal heirs of an estate of an unmarried person who dies without leaving a Will. Even if the decedent had repeatedly expressed to multiple friends his hatred of his brother and his undying love for his fiancée, the brother, if he is the next of kin, will inherit everything and the fiancée will get nothing. That will be true even if he also verbally told everyone that he wanted his partner to have everything he owned.
There is no reason to allow such an unintended situation to occur. It is relatively painless to visit a qualified estate planning attorney to determine which option works best to take care of your loved ones. Get it in writing so they and you can rest in peace.
Bruce L. Woodbury is an attorney with the law firm of Jolley Urga Woodbury & Little. The firm has offices in Boulder City and Las Vegas. To contact Bruce, call him at 293-3674 or 699-7500, or visit his website at www.juww.com.