Skip to main content

Should gay unmarried couples who wish to name each other as executor in their wills, etc as "partner" or "life partner?"

Andover, MA |

Is there any advantage vis a vis challenges from biological family if they don't.

On other hand, is it necessary or perhaps create an unintended implied condition that could be used to challenge their authority in the event they break up or temporarily separate

+ Read More

Attorney answers 9


Can you expand on your question - I'm not really clear what is being asked. Anyone can name anyone else as an executor if they wish (as long as they are a competent adult). If the question is should they use the word/words "partner" or "life partner" then the answer is yes, it can't hurt but it probably doesn't mean much legally.

This is not legal advice nor intended to create an attorney-client relationship. The information provided here is informational in nature only. This attorney may not be licensed in the jurisdiction which you have a question about so the answer could be only general in nature. Visit Steve Zelinger's website:


An executor is a person who manages the estate and makes sure the beneficiaries get what they are supposed to get. You probably don't need to even mention a relationship to executors in the Will. Typically, family members might challenge who the beneficiaries are, and don't focus as much on who the executors are.

Make sure you use the proper wording and process for a self-proved will, if possible. Take a look here:

The above is not intended to be legal advice, but may be used for general information. Please contact an attorney for specific help tailored to your needs.


Clarify whether you mean beneficiary or executor.


Far more important that the named person be correctly identified by full name and address (so he or she can be located) than it is to designate whether the named person is a partner, life partner, special companion for years, soulmate, etc.


In Massachusetts, the person appointed to probate an estate is now refered to as "Personal Representative." You each can appoint anyone who is over 18 and competent to perform this function. You should always consider having at least one more person named should the first person not be able to perform the role. More importantly, as gay unmarried partners, you should be concerned with Health Care Proxies which allow for the appointment of each other to make health care decisions. If your not married, in many cases, the parents would likely get this right. You should consult with an attorney to ensure that not only your wills are correct but other important aspects of your life planning including powers of attorney, health care proxies and property ownership are handled in a manner that achieves your goals.

The above comments are general in nature and not intended to be legal advise nor create an attorney/client relationship. You should seek the advise of attorney working for you about all the facts of your case before taking an action.


Under Massachusetts law, you're either married or you're not married. That rule is in large part what led to the Goodridge decision in the first place. It doesn't matter a bit if you refer to each other as "life partner," "soul mate," "friend" or whatever. What does matter is that you properly identify the person by name and place of residence as of the time the will was created. You also need documents which will protect you in the event of incapacity, including durable powers of attorney and health care proxies. You also need to be aware that your IRAs, 401Ks and life insurance policies are not governed by a will and update your beneficiary designations accordingly.

I would suggest that if you're this serious about your relationship, you should seriously consider getting married. A surviving spouse is entitled to numerous legal privileges by virtue of having been married

E. Alexandra "Sasha" Golden is a Massachusetts lawyer. All answers are based on Massachusetts law. All answers are for educational purposes and no attorney-client relationship is formed by providing an answer to a question.


I think my colleagues have addressed your concerns quite thoroughly:
name your personal representative in your will (relationship is irrelevant); properly identify him/her including address and contact information. Prepare a living will (health proxy) to identify who can make end-of-life medical decisions in the event you are incapacitated. Have a power of attorney drawn up too. All of these documents can be prepared quickly by a good lawyer, and you will have peace of mind. Good luck.


As the others have said, the key is to identify each person who takes any role or gift - use their full names, and correct current addresses. This is not legally required, but if there is ever a question as to whom you intended to leave something, the more specific you can describe that individual, the better.

By the way - don't cheap out on this. Hire an estate planning attorney. We aren't that expensive!


My colleagues all give good answers saying the same thing . The relationship (if any ) of an executor to a testator is irrelevant. Many people pick a bank, friend, sibling, cousin, lover, spouse, child, parent, CPA, financial advisor to name but a few choices that are the sole choice of the testator for whatever reason motivates them. Such issue is not subject to challenge by anyone unless the testator was perhaps incompetent to make a will in the first place. Perhaps your concern is nit about the named executor but some other matter? Perhaps pose a new question to refocus your concern if it has something to do with leaving your estate assets to beneficiaries, etc?

My answer is not intended to be giving legal advice and this topic can be a complex area where the advice of a licensed attorney in your State should be obtained. Please click "helpful" or "best answer" if my answer added any value or add a "comment" if you have more info for me to help you get a better answer.