Designated Beneficiary Agreements: A Step in the Right Direction for Unmarried Couples

The institution of marriage, though deeply rooted in tradition, is becoming insufficient to meet contemporary economic and social demands on its own. Throughout history, cohabitation has been a popular choice for different-sex couples as both a precursor to marriage and as an alternative economic arrangement. Couples choosing cohabitation, however, are not provided the same rights and obligations that come with marriage. This Note argues that marital benefits based on economic and emotional interdependence should not be restricted to married couples. Providing such rights and obligations to cohabiting different-sex couples would allow the couples to enjoy the benefits of a legally recognized relationship without participating in the institution of marriage. Many economic and social advantages that marriage offers are disjointed from the institution of marriage itself; rather, these benefits are simply of the economic ebb and flow of such a relationship. Particularly, the laws of health care, social welfare, and property suggest that economics and contractual freedom offer the proper justification for granting rights typically conferred by a marriage certificate. Recently, states such as Colorado, as well as many foreign countries, have created domestic partnership laws and designated beneficiary agreements that provide unmarried, differentsex couples a stronger potential alternative to marriage. This Note argues that, although a step in the right direction, these laws could go further and should be adopted by more states.

The full text of this Note is available to download as a PDF.