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Registered Domestic Partner

DEFINITION

A registered domestic partner is part of a couple that is living together but is unmarried. Be part of a domestic partnership allows people to have access to the same benefits as married couples in terms of insurance, employers, as well as discount memberships.

EXPLANATION

Domestic partnership also allows people to visit each other hospitals and prisons, although it doesn’t necessarily entitle people to real estate, making decisions on behalf of their partners in terms of health care, or arrangements regarding funerals. It is also used as a form of identification that is valid when offered to employers. It originally arose in the 80’s through the use of it by same-sex relationships that wanted to have the same recognition as their straight counterparts. These days the option is open to heterosexual couples as well.

When applying, it’s important to have verifiable proof that a relationship exists, as most organizations will want to see something concrete. For instance, an employer might be able to offer benefits like use of employer facilities, or leave in case a partner or children need care, etc. This is known as a ‘soft benefit.’ ‘Hard’ benefits might be something like vision or dental insurance, although this is dependent on whether the insurance agency will recognize the validity of a domestic partnership.

Laws

People who submit applications for domestic partnerships have to deal with the fact that the benefits plan is considered taxable income by the government. People receiving these benefits are considered to be dependents, because half of what they receive is coming from taxpayers. This is in contrast to married people, who receive regular insurance benefits.

Another way in which marriage and domestic partnership is different is that the benefits don’t transfer between locations. This means that if an employee under a domestic partnership agreement moves or has to change jobs, the benefits won’t transfer.

Domestic partnerships don’t offer extensive legal histories or thorough regulations, which means that if things like powers of attorney, wills, etc. aren’t established by most couples, then they’ll be liable for each other’s debts and support. In some case, lawyers have questioned whether the benefits outweigh the responsibilities.

Documents

In order to establish domestic partnership rights legally, it’s necessary to submit legal documentation. These include the following:

–              Power of Attorney for Health Care — This is a document that allows one partner to choose action for the other’s medical care in case of injury or illness.

–              Authorization for Hospital Visitation — This implies that partners within a domestic partnership, who technically counts as a non-family member, may still visit their partner in the hospital.

–              Living Wills of Directive to Physicians — In case of a worst-case scenario that one of the partners loses consciousness and is unable to make their own medial decisions, a living will is a binding directive that gives medical instructions to care givers.

–              Wills — A will describes what is to be done with a deceased partner’s remains and belongings, and is necessary for those applying for a domestic partnership.

–              Living Trusts — A living trust is almost like a will in that it passes along a person’s property and assets but can be put into effect while the person is still alive. Usually a will has to go through the process of probate, or being proven legally legitimate, and a living trust can go into effect without going through probate.

–              Living Together Agreement – Also known as a ‘cohabitation agreement’, this is a legal document that protects a non-married couple’s rights, as well as their individual rights. Because they may break up at some point, and aren’t offered the same protection as married couples, this agreement offers the ability to prepare.

–              Legal Precautions for Partners who Parent — Unmarried parents have less rights regarding parenting than married parents. There are actually seven states that still legally forbid unmarried parents to live together, much less parent.

The registration process can be arduous but is able to be accomplished. In order to apply successful partners have to:

–              Be unmarried, and not currently registered as domestic partner of anyone else

–              At least 18 years of age

–              Unrelated by blood

–              Intelligent enough to be considered competent enough to make decisions about consent

–              Be living together with the intention of doing so long-term

–              Be basically responsible for each other’s livelihood and welfare

–              Live in an area where domestic partnership is recognized and offered, and one of the partners has to be employed in that area.

Other requirements may include:

–              The relationship has to be exclusive and have lasted for a period of at least six months to a year.

–              Partners must enter into the agreement freely; they cannot have been coerced or forced into the relationship in any way, nor is fraud acceptable.

–              There must have been a satisfactory waiting period between entering into such agreements, similar to the waiting period between divorce and remarriage.

After these conditions are established, the rest of the process is relatively simple. A couple must apply at the county clerk’s location. Both people have to go in person to apply, and must come with proof of residence, identity or employment in that city. There’s usually an administrative fee no higher than $75. It’s required that a notary be present because an Affidavit of Domestic Partnership must be signed with a witness present.

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