Legally speaking, unmarried couples are not “together.” You can live together for 20 years, but, unless you officially tie the knot, the state does not care.

This can lead to a lot of issues when couples do not draft an estate plan or write out a will. It may mean that the surviving individual does not have any rights and does not get any assets when the other person passes away.

For instance, maybe you bought a home 30 years ago. You paid it off. Your significant other moved in 20 years ago, and you lived together ever since.

You don’t have an estate plan, though, so your home goes to your children when you die. Do they have to let your significant other live in it? Or can they just take possession or sell the house? What if they just see it as a financial asset, and they do not care about your partner?

“The state will not protect your significant other,” one expert noted. “The children can kick her (or him) out right away.”

Without a clear plan in place or his or her name on the deed, your significant other has no right to that house. It does not matter that it has been your home together for decades. Once it belongs to your kids, what they do with it is up to them. If you don’t have children, things get even more complicated.

The best thing you can do is to plan in advance. Make sure you know what options you have and what steps you need to take to protect your significant other when they need it most.