About once a week I hear from unmarried seniors living together. Typically they have been living together for about a decade and are previously divorced or widowed. They had a reason not to get married at the time but one of them has now passed and the ownership of property is in question.
There are many reasons why people don't want to get married (finances, bad previous marriages, etc.) but marriage does confer certain rights of inheritance. In the absence of a Will, Oregon's intestacy laws will determine who inherits. This can lead to the surviving partner losing their home because they were not on the title.
Substituted Decision Making
Unmarried couples are also unable to make financial and healthcare decisions for their partners. Durable power of attorneys, healthcare power of attorneys, and certain types of trust can help you make decisions and care for your partner if they are to become incapacitated.
Making sure Children are taken care of too
Trusts can be used to make sure that your surviving partner has the means to support themselves and, when they pass, your children still inherit they way you wanted.
Marriage has Consequences
When you marry your spouse, your legal status changes and you acquire new legal rights. The decision not to marry also has consequences and may lead to unintended consequences as you age. At the very least, you should talk to your partner on how you want your property handled after your death. If necessary, you should draw up estate planning documents to make sure your wishes are upheld.