The classification of a non-traditional family is continuously evolving over time. For this reason, it is difficult to limit the non-traditional family to a specific definition. The concept began its evolution from a scenario involving a single mother who had been widowed by tragedy. In this scenario, the non-traditional family had been created due to the severance of what was once a traditional family consisting of two spouses and their children if they had any.
Over time, non-traditional family classification has grown to include single parent scenarios caused by divorce, families consisting of children born out of wedlock, foster parents, step-parents, as well as gay and lesbian couples. The single most important element common to all non-traditional families is that their legal status is either limited, or nonexistent. This greatly limits the rights of those involved when compared to a traditional family.
For example, there are several legal issues experienced by those involved in cohabitation. Cohabitants are individuals engaged in a romantic relationship that share a home together but are not legally married. This type of relationship may be by choice, or due to legal restrictions such as legislative prohibition on gay and lesbian marriage. Those engaged in cohabitation typically maintain the same social status as a married couple, yet cannot benefit from the same legal protection and tax benefits as their married counterparts.
One significant legal distinction unique to unmarried life partners involves the power to make financial and medical decisions in the event of incapacitation or disability. In a traditional marriage, a spouse is generally given legal authority to speak on behalf of the other in such an event. Specifically, decisions by one spouse involving medical treatment of the incapacitated spouse are given legal significance. Furthermore, financial decisions made by one spouse are rarely challenged in court since ownership of financial assets is shared between both spouses. In the event of the death of a spouse, ownership of all assets is assumed by the surviving spouse without complication by operation of law. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case in a non-traditional family.
In the event of incapacitation or death, the surviving partner is often left with no legal authority to claim ownership of the decedent’s property. Further complications arise involving custody of minor children, as well as insurance claims and tax disputes. Most of these issues can be prevented by proper estate planning.
The experienced staff at McCarty Law Offices, PLC can help. Through a multi-disciplinary approach, our staff can safeguard your interests in a way that protects your legal rights and assets throughout your lifetime and after your death. Contact McCarty Law Offices, PLC to schedule a free 30 minute consultation to discuss your needs and begin preparation of an effective estate plan.