Celebrity Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s death shows us the obstacles that unmarried couples face according to Florida law. How do you take care of your loved ones if the law says they have no rights?
Unexpected Death and the Lack of an Estate Plan
If you died and are unmarried, who would plan your funeral? What would happen to your estate?
Take the example of Philip Seymour Hoffman who died suddenly, leaving behind three minor children and his unmarried life partner of fifteen years, Mimi O’Donnell. TMZ reported that Ms. O’Donnell went to the funeral home to make arrangements for Mr. Hoffman’s funeral and estate plan.
Navigating Florida Estate Law
The Florida estate laws say that because she is not Mr. Hoffman’s surviving spouse, unless Mr. Hoffman specifically and in writing gave her such power through his estate plan, Ms. O’Donnell would have little chance of legal authority to make decisions about Mr. Hoffman’s disposition or to his living trust. She would be nineteenth in line to make such estate planning decisions, after any family member, and complete strangers such as the medical examiner or Mr. Hoffman’s county commissioner. FS 497.005(39)(c)
Unmarried couples have virtually no rights under Florida statute. The good news is that many of those rights can be created with the proper documents and through estate planning. If you are part of an unmarried couple, please make the time to hire an estate attorney and formally plan your estate. Your Caring Law Firm can guide you through the trust planning process. Contact us to find out more.