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Ask Sherry: I have zero rights to anything as a common-law spouse

You asked, and I am answering every Friday once I have enough questions!

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Hello! I am a great fan and longtime reader of your blog! I understand and respect your views on not getting married, but I’ve been wondering -I’m not sure how it works in Canada (I’m in the US) – but do you ever worry about making medical decisions for your partner if he is incapacitated? In the state I live in you cannot make an important medical decision for your significant other unless you’re married. Their closest next of kin has that power. I would just think you are the first and most important person to make these decisions but not being married could stand in the way of that. Just curious… Love the blog! 🙂

(xoxo — love that you love the blog! <3 Thank you)

Okay so… in Canada it depends on the province.

In B.C. it is the most friendly province for common-law couples, but generally speaking it is just like in the U.S. Zero provisions for anything. You brought up a great point about common-law couples.

To be clear — it is NOT the same as a married couple, you do not have the same rights to assets, to property, to anything that was not in your name at all.

So if for instance, I happened to live in a home with my partner, and I did not have my name on the deed, I am not entitled to it.

If we split, he could just kick me out and I get zero. I am not even entitled to any kind of childcare support or alimony if I was a stay-at-home parent (which I am not)…


All of this means is that if you are a common-law couple like we are, GET A WILL CREATED. A living will, so that you have everything covered in terms of what happens if someone is in a coma, what decisions to take on their life if they cannot do it for themselves, and where the assets go (if any). Otherwise, it all goes to “”next of kin””, and in this case, it would be our son, but he is still a baby.

That said, there is some case law that says that common-law couples ARE recognized, but the time periods vary. It could be 3 months, 1 year, 3 years, 5 years. We have been together for over a decade now, so we would probably super qualify for being “”common-law spouse””, but regardless… the best advice is:

If you are in ANY Common Law relationship, consult a lawyer for proper legal advice for your situation and have a will drawn up. Clearly appoint an EXECUTOR. If you do this, most of the issues that arise when somebody challenges or questions an common law relationship will be clearly dealt with.

That said, we have been procrastinating on the Living Will side, where I clearly stated that my assets go to my partner, but for the medical decisions I did not consider that in my document I did. Thank you for the reminder and kick in the #$*&#$ because I just emailed my partner to ask him to set up a meeting with a Family Lawyer to do just that, as Quebec is the most UNFRIENDLY of all provinces for common-law marriages.

When you read something, do you usually take notes or highlight paragraphs?

For school I did. I don’t any more. To be honest, when I read something, I read for pleasure.

Then.. out of the blue… I will be in a conversation and I will remember something I read, and if I think hard enough about how I felt and where I sort of read that, I can trace it back to where it originated from.

Unless it is stuff I NEED to make notes on — lists of funds, or whatever, I never take notes or highlight things.

I thought I would be proactive and go back and re-read stuff I noted or highlighted but I NEVER DO IT.

It just is not something I do, although I suspect if it were easier to search all of my notes like with Evernote, or MS One Note or something, this may be something different…. but as it stands, unless I need to really make a note, I transfer the thought / note into my ToDo App under a note heading, or I don’t bother.

Do you thing it’s ok to speak a foreign language mediocrely (e.g., not conjugate the verbs correctly etc.) than to not speak it at all? Learning it very well (grammar and vocabulary) takes a long time for an adult and mediocrity makes me feel paralysed and the little progress, panicked.

YES. IT IS OKAY.

Just practice. The FEELING of conjugation and whether or not the word requires a “le” or “la” in front, will come with time and practice.

Now, when someone says something that I FEEL in my heart is a “le” and not an “la”, it sounds weird to me. I pick up on it immediately, however if I had spent hours and hours practicing in my room, with a textbook, or with Duolingo and never even bothering to use it in real life, it is a waste of time.

You can learn a language, muddle through it, make mistakes, and people are WILLING to help you along because they’re impressed, amused and amazed that you are even trying to pick up another language in such a short amount of time.

Only some things are worth memorizing like root verbs (aller, and its conjugations) but aside from that just jam it out. Don’t bother trying to speak it perfectly, they don’t, so you shouldn’t feel the need to.

Practice. Makes. Perfect.

Now in French I’ve advanced to the next level of perfecting my phrases, my Le and La, and so on, but before, I had no clue and didn’t care.

I just jammed words together and people understood me even if it was incorrectly conjugated.. now my French is impressively good for a short amount of time.

#ZeroShameInAnyLanguageGame

After a few months of embarrassing things like: Je ne me sen pas bon instead of Je ne me sens pas bien, you will eventually learn how to speak far more fluently than with any language app, tape or process.

(For you non French-speakers: The first means “I don’t smell good” versus “I don’t FEEL good“… WTF right? Yeah…)


Still have a burning question?

You can ask any question using the form here and all of my previous Ask Sherry posts are here.


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Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

I got out of $60,000 of debt in 18 months using TheBudgetingTool.com. Since then, I have worked 50% of my career (taking 1-2 year breaks), and quadrupled my income within 2 years of graduating, going from $65K to $260K (savings rate = 85%). I could retire today if I wanted, but love my work-life balance as a freelancing consultant in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). I also post daily on Instagram @saverspender.

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