Choosing Alternates for Your Spouse or Partner (When You Don't Have Kids)

When you make your will with Nolo’s Online Will and you choose to leave your spouse or domestic partner all or most of your property, your next task will be to choose an alternate or alternates for your spouse or partner.

The Survivorship Requirement

Your will provides that all beneficiaries—including your spouse or domestic partner—must survive you by 45 days to receive the property you leave them. This is a standard will provision, called a survivorship requirement. It is based on the assumption that if a beneficiary survives you by only a few days or weeks, you would prefer the property to go to another beneficiary that you name in your will.

The alternate or alternates you choose will receive the property only if your spouse or partner does not live at least 45 days longer than you do.

Naming Alternates for Your Spouse or Partner

You may name whomever you want as the alternate for your spouse or domestic partner. If your spouse or partner does not survive you by 45 days, the alternate or alternates you name will receive the property your spouse or partner would have received. If you name more than one person, you may specify what share each is to receive.

EXAMPLE: In her will, Sharon leaves most of her property to her husband, Alex, with a few exceptions of some small items for friends. As an alternate for Alex, she names her sisters Barbara and Jenny to share that property 50/50.

If You Do Not Name Alternates

If you leave all or most of your estate to your spouse or partner, you do not name alternate beneficiaries, and your spouse or partner do not survive you, then that the property your spouse would have received, will be distributed according to the laws of your state. Learn more about the laws of Intestate Succession.

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