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Domestic partner loses claim to pension

A woman waited too long to file a declaration of domestic partnership for her partner of 38 years and will not be receiving his pension benefits, a state appeals court ruled recently. The couple had been living together since 1969 but hadn't filed for a formal domestic partnership under state law. The man had listed the woman as his pension beneficiary in 1978, but after his death in 2007 his children challenged her claim to the pension.

The decision of whether to allow the woman to collect benefits turned on the domestic partnership filing, which was signed by her and her partner the day that he died but wasn't filed for two more days.

The court found that even though both parties had signed the document, the domestic partnership was not formed because the man was unable to consent to the formation on the day of the filing.

This case shows the importance of long term planning for your loved ones and friends, especially those who you wish to benefit but who have no recognized legal claim under state probate laws. Children, spouses, parents, and people who share title on property or who are named on bank accounts, are all able to pursue claims to property even if they were not named in the will. They may not be awarded exactly what they think they are entitled to, but they do have standing to pursue the claim. On the other hand, close friends who are not named in the will or in any trust or other financial documents are often unable to assert any claim to assets that they were promised.

More information about comprehensive estate planning can be found on our Texas wills and trusts page.

Source: Courthouse News Service, "Deathbed Partnership Form Was Too Late," Jeff D. Gorman, Sept. 5, 2012.

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