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Is there a way to protect my legal rights if we are not married?

On Behalf of | Feb 22, 2024 | Family Law |

You and your partner may never want to get married, but you still want to protect your legal rights. There are several effective methods for unmarried couples to safeguard their legal interests.

Cohabitation and domestic partnership agreements

Cohabitation agreements and domestic partnership agreements are the same thing. They are legal documents that enable unmarried couples living together to grant each other specific rights typically afforded to married couples. In Ohio, these agreements are recognized and enforceable, provided they meet specific legal requirements.


Another way to protect your rights is through a will. Wills play a crucial role in protecting legal rights, especially for unmarried couples. Dying without a valid will invokes Ohio’s intestate succession laws, determining property inheritance and distribution among legal heirs, which is by familial relationship (blood and marriage). Unmarried partners may be denied property rights under intestate laws, emphasizing the need for a well-thought-out estate plan and will.

Estate planning

Ohio’s marriage and probate laws do not offer the same protections to unmarried couples as they do for married ones. Unmarried couples must take proactive steps in estate planning to protect their partners’ interests after death. As stated above, executing a valid will is essential for unmarried individuals who wish to leave their entire estate to their partner.

However, there are other estate planning documents, like trusts, powers of attorney, healthcare proxies, etc. These are essential to ensure that your unmarried spouse is empowered to make those same types of decisions a spouse would be empowered to make.

Recent legal precedents

Ohio has seen legal precedents expanding the rights of unmarried couples. A recent Ohio Supreme Court decision clarified that survivors may receive workers’ compensation death benefits without a legal relationship requirement.


Although Ohio law does not automatically extend the same protections to unmarried couples as to married ones, avenues exist to safeguard legal rights. Cohabitation agreements, wills and strategic estate planning are powerful tools to ensure the protection of both partners’ rights. By taking these steps, unmarried couples can navigate legal complexities and secure their wishes and interests effectively.