Many people are choosing to delay or avoid marriage, or live with a partner in a long term relationship as an alternative to being legally getting married. This brings up the question, should you get married, or just live in a long term relationship? Here is the answer to the question from a legal perspective, from Michelle Hopkins, a lawyer who has been married, divorced, and remarried.

Can you trust your partner?

Marriage legally ties you to your partner until death or divorce, and is a serious commitment not to be taken lightly. If the relationship you are in feels right and you are able to trust your partner, considering marriage makes sense. If you cannot trust your partner, marriage may not be the right choice.

Although marriage does tie you to your partner, you can make choices to further intertwine your lives or to have some independence, such as jointly titling vehicles and maintaining joint financial accounts, or establishing separate accounts and purchasing vehicles separately.

Marriage does offer some protection to each partner in the event of the dissolution of the relationship. If a partner dies without a will, their partner is likely to inherit. If the parties decide to divorce, marriage offers some protection when assets and debts are divided.

If you decide that you want to proceed with marriage but you would be more comfortable if you were prepared for an unfavorable outcome, you should consider entering into a prenuptial agreement or postnuptial agreement. Schedule a consultation with Michelle Hopkins to inquire as to which type of agreement is best for your circumstances.

How can I protect myself in a long term relationship if I don’t get married?

If you are uncomfortable being married for any reason but want to remain in a long term relationship with your partner, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself in the event of a death or break up.

Each partner should consider preparing a will benefitting the other partner, as unmarried couples in long term relationships have no legal ties that would lead to their benefitting under inheritance “trickling through” the family tree as it does in Virginia when an individual passes away without a will.

If one or both of the partners are legally married to someone else, they should legally finalize that divorce as soon as possible. In the event they pass away while still legally married, their current partner may not benefit, but their former spouse may.

Schedule A Consultation Today

Michelle Hopkins and her legal team are ready to help you find a custom solution to your needs, whether it be preparing for marriage or protecting your interests in a long term relationship. Contact her office at or 571-248-2210 to schedule a consultation today.

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