How To Protect Your Sanity, Dignity and Assets Whether You Are Married Or Not

People tend to want what they can’t have. Some choose to not take advantage of what they can legally have, just because it’s not right for them. In either case, it’s important to protect yourselves, because life creates circumstances and issues, and good times and bad times. No one is immune.

In the hundreds of wonderful calls and emails and texts and facebook messages that I’ve received, there’s one big question that kept getting asked. I’ll paraphrase the gist of it for you.

“What are the papers I need if I’m NOT MARRIED?”

VeryVintageVegas is decidedly NOT a gay blog. It never has been, and never will be. It’s about homes and neighborhoods and architecture and history and urban life. There is a huge overlap of the types of people who are interested in those topics. But since I brought it up by going both public and political after JJ’s passing, I’ll have to say that The Gay Community has led the way for 30 years in the fights for the HUMAN RIGHTS OF ALL PEOPLE who don’t fit the model of the way our laws are written.

The laws of the US and the State of Nevada are written for the approximately 10% of the population model (now-a-days) of a man married to a woman, with her staying at home to raise the children.  If something happens to you, the first rights and decision making privileges go to the married spouse. Then your parents and then to your siblings. I’m not sure which comes next…cousins? uncles? nieces?. If there’s none of the above, then it’s a bureaucrat or a judge.

That is UNLESS YOU TELL THE WORLD IN WRITING THAT THAT’S NOT THE WAY YOU WANT IT TO BE.

In some real world examples, for instance:

Mary and Bob, or Adam and Steve live in a home together. But it’s only in one of their names. That could have come about for many different reasons. But it’s still both of their homes as far as they’re concerned. That is until the car wreck, or the sudden tragic illness, or the irreconcilable fight over the toilet seat. Then what? Not being protected is easy to ignore until it’s too late.

Mary owns her own home, and lives alone, and likes it that way. She has a new wonderful life, but doesn’t talk to her mother. When she ended up in the hospital from the run in with the drunk driver, they called her Religious Fanatic Mother who insisted that she stay alive on a breathing machine for the next 10 or 20 years. CAN YOU SAY TERRY SCHIAVO?

In my own case, JJ was on life support in January. The ambulance paramedics are the ones who made the decision to put him on life support. I had specific, well thought out, written directives from JJ that he was NOT EVER to be put on life support or to be allowed to stay in that situation.  I had to do battle with the hospital, but in the end, they followed his wishes because I had it in writing about what he wanted and I had it in writing that I was the one who had the power to make the decisions. I have no idea what decisions his mother would have made. They said he’d die in an hour or two if I “pulled the plug”, but I lucked out, and scored 3 extra wonderful months with him. Even if we HAD been married and all the laws HAD been changed to make me first in line to make decisions on his behalf….I still needed the advance directives so that I would know what to do.

As you can see, this topic APPLIES TO EVERYONE. Couples! Parents! The young and the elderly. The married and the “partnered”. It applies to your health, as well as your home and assets and children.

Some of information below applies to single people, as well. I don’t know many single people who aren’t open to not being single one day, so they should store much of this away for when or if they become part of a couple. Even while one is still single, if you don’t designate the person you want making decisions for you and handling your affairs when you can’t, the the laws will decide it for you.

I’m not a lawyer. I can’t give legal advice. But I can give personal advice. My advice is to decide for yourself what you need for your own personal circumstances and to PUT IT IN WRITING.  

You can google away if you want, but the best list of the papers you should have is on the Human Rights Campaign website. It’s written for gay people, and reads that way, since as I said, it’s the gay community that’s been championing and fighting for the laws to get changed. But even for straight people, the advice is right, the list is correct, and it’s certainly pertinent for a real estate blog.