A domestic partnership is a legal relationship between two adults who are not married. The status confers many of the rights and benefits also available to married couples in many aspects of life but it is not marriage under Washington law. Originally only a few of these affected real property, but as of 2008 many elements of real property ownership applicable to married persons now also apply to domestic partnerships.
1. Who qualifies for domestic partnership?
Domestic partnerships can apply to persons of the same sex, but also to those of the opposite sex where at least one of them is 62 years old or older. This is important to those who want some of the benefits of marriage but who do not want to be married. For instance, a domestic partnership will allow inheritance of a home as if the couple were married, but preserve the single status of those persons who do not want the relationship to affect, for example, pensions or Social Security benefits. For those couples it is important that the legal relationship not be equivalent to marriage.
“Domestic partnerships can apply to persons of the same sex, but also to those of the opposite sex where at least one of them is 62 years old or older.”
2. How do domestic partnerships effect real estate ownership?
Broadening the treatment of real property to apply to domestic partnerships means that now interest in real property is equivalent to both homestead and community property for a married couple. (Please see previous post on community property & homesteads in WA by clicking here.) And, of course, if either partner dies without a will, title to real property will be treated the same as for a married couple in similar circumstances. (Please see May 2011 post regarding probates.)
3. How can I have a domestic partnership legally recognized?
In order for the domestic partnership to be legally recognized in Washington State a declaration of domestic partnership must be completed and filed with the Office of the Secretary of State, Corporations Division. It can be terminated automatically if the partners marry each other as recognized in Washington (which would only apply to domestic partners of the opposite sex). It can also be terminated voluntarily by filing a notice and affidavit with the registry and meeting certain other criteria. The final way it can be dissolved is by a court process similar to marriage dissolution.
4. Will Washington State recognize a same-sex marriage registered in another state?
Limited reciprocity rules apply to domestic partnerships. A legal union formed in another state that is “substantially equivalent” to a Washington domestic partnership will be recognized here as such. However, a same-sex marriage that is legal in another state is not recognized in Washington as either a marriage or a domestic partnership.
Washington State Domestic Partnership Resources:
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