Marrying a partner isn’t just a way of symbolically affirming your commitment to one another. In New York, marriage confers certain rights to a couple. Among them are the rights to make healthcare decisions when they cannot and to inherit property in the event of their death.

The inverse of this is also true: you don’t have certain rights in New York if you and your partner aren’t married. Although getting married is one way to secure those rights, there are certain other options that confer many of the same benefits.

Marriage in New York: Important Information About a Healthcare Proxy

A healthcare proxy is someone who can make decisions about your health (such as medical care decisions) when you’re unable to do so yourself. The decisions a healthcare proxy might make include:

  • Whether to proceed with a potentially risky treatment in an emergency
  • Whether certain treatments are necessary or not
  • How and where you will receive medical treatment

Those are just a few examples. The Family Health Care Decisions Act (FHCDA) provides a list of people who can make this decision on a patient’s behalf, with spouses and domestic partners at the top of the list (unless there is a court-appointed guardian). If your partner is not your spouse or domestic partner as defined in the FHCDA, you should consider formally appointing them your healthcare proxy so that they can make decisions in the even that you become incapacitated.

Appointing a healthcare proxy is important. If you don’t take this step, there may be disputes among family members regarding decisions about your healthcare. Unfortunately, if you’re not married, your partner may have limited rights in these circumstances. Guard against such complications by legally appointing a proxy now.

When appointing someone as a healthcare proxy, you can specify what types of decisions you do and don’t want them to make. A family lawyer in New York can help you determine what types of powers such an individual should have. They can also draft your healthcare proxy agreements so that they are thorough and legally sound.

You Need a Will to Ensure a Partner Receives an Inheritance

Drafting a will isn’t a task you should postpone until you near old age. Although it’s not a pleasant topic to think about, the fact is that the future is uncertain. If you don’t leave behind a will, your partner may not have a right to certain property you wish for them to inherit.

New York’s rules of intestate succession apply when a resident of the state dies without leaving a will. According to New York’s rules of intestate succession, the following individuals may inherit a deceased individual’s property when they haven’t left a will:

  • Spouses
  • Children
  • Parents
  • Siblings


Who receives an inheritance depends on various factors. For example, siblings are only entitled to receive property through intestate succession when the deceased has no living parents, children, or spouses.

Unfortunately, the rules of intestate succession don’t recognize unmarried romantic partners. Creating a will and writing your partner into it is essential if you want them to inherit property after your passing.

Contact a New York Family Lawyer

At Venzon Law Firm PC in Buffalo, a New York family law attorney is available to help you secure and protect your rights and the rights of your partner. Learn more about how we can help by contacting us online or calling us today to review your case.