“I’m not trying to keep my options open”
But you are. Not in the “shop around” way but in that you want to keep the option of “staying with your current SO” open. You are keeping that option open by not being forthright with her about your intention to never get married. That is not fair to her.
“today it totally doesn’t seem necessary as de facto relationships are afforded a lot if not all of the same benefits and protections – at least in my country“
I obviously don’t know what country you are in, but let me say that in my experience, most laypeople only think of tax benefits and child support when they think of marital benefits.
When you say that “de facto relationships” (btw, not sure what that means) has “a lot if not all of the same benefits and protections” do you mean that you have:
– Set up joint tenancy with right of survivorship, or whatever is equivalent in your country, for the homestead in which you both live? Joint tenancy with right of survivorship means that if either of you dies before the other, then the remaining joint tenant would automatically gain 100% ownership interest (or “fee simple” as we call it) in the real property. No will necessary. Legal spouses are automatically treated as JTWROS.
– Set up a cohabitation agreement that governs the division of property should you two split. You can’t do a civil union but there shouldn’t be anything stopping you from a cohab agreement. In the U.S., private parties can enter into any contract they choose as long as the terms are not illegal and there is consideration (contracts to give a gift are not enforceable because no consideration). This is pretty standard and logical and I would imagine things work similarly in other countries unless you’re in North Korea or something, and you obviously aren’t or you wouldn’t be posting here.
– Will – Self-explanatory.
Oh but, if you two end up having any children, the will must specifically include them. You might think oh they’re my kids, so even if I die intestate (that means no will), my kids are automatically covered. WRONG.
If you do end up marrying someone else down the line, let’s say you buy a house and then you die, Joint Tenancy WROS kicks in and your current wife gets all of the house–Your children with your ex get NOTHING.
– Power of Attorney – Medical and general. This gives her decision-making powers on your person and regarding your property should you become incapacitated.
– Health insurance – This one you can ignore if you live in a country with universal healthcare. But in the U.S. only legal spouses can be covered under your health insurance policy. Have you bought a health insurance policy for your SO?
– Pensions – Is she listed as the beneficiary/POD (payable on death) on all of your retirement savings/pension accounts?
– Estate taxes and gift taxes – This one you absolutely cannot avoid in the U.S. if you are transferring property to your SO, unless you are legally married to him or her.
– Ownership of legal claims – This one you absolutely cannot gain in the U.S. unless you are legally married. If your SO dies in a car accident, as her husband you would be able to file Wrongful Death claim on behalf of her estate. If you don’t have that piece of paper–tough sh^t, the law does not care how much you were in love or how long you were together. Loss of Consortium? If you’re not legally married, you haven’t lost any consortium, sorry.
No contract to get around this, because yes you can assign your rights in a lawsuit to someone else contractually, but you can’t preemptively assign something like this because it has not accrued yet and you obviously cannot predict when or even if it will accrue.
I am a lawyer but I am not your lawyer and this is not legal advice. But I run into the above a LOT and it’s heartbreaking when it happens.
This is also not an exhaustive list. I am doubtful, for the reasons listed above, that your SO currently enjoys “a lot if not all of the same benefits and protections” as if she were married to you.