Couples in California who decide to live together rather than marrying may think that their estate will automatically go to their partner without benefit of a will. The truth is, it probably will not because marriage offers several automatic protections for issues such as estate planning and medical directives that are not available to unmarried partners.
Even couples who have lived together for many years should take care that their wills and other legal documents specify who will get their personal and real property upon death. An example of this would be a couple who have lived together for 20 years in a house that, in this case, belonged to the woman. If she dies without a will, the house will likely pass to her family members under state intestacy law, and this could potentially leave her partner homeless because the family can ask him to move out of the property.