Estate planning for unmarried couples is just as important as it is for those who are married. In fact, it is even more essential because unmarried couples do not have the legal protections that their married counterparts do. Read on to learn how you can protect yourself.
You do not need to be married to have a life-long commitment to a partner. Unfortunately, if you are not married to (or have a civil union or domestic partnership with) your partner, they will not inherit anything from your estate if something happens to you. Furthermore, they will be excluded from end-of-life care decisions if you are incapacitated and cannot make those decisions for yourself.
Not being married does not make your relationship with your partner any less real or significant, but it does leave you without legal rights. The only way to protect yourself and your partner is to tailor your estate plan to suit your needs.
Estate planning for unmarried couples is essential. These tips will help you get started.
How to Protect Yourselves
In general, most unmarried couples should be most concerned about two areas of estate planning: the inheritance of property and the legal authority to make medical decisions. Here’s how to protect yourself and your partner.
If you have assets that you want your partner to inherit, it is essential to include that wish in your will. Otherwise, those assets might go to someone you did not intend to inherit them.
Let’s take the family home as an example. If you do not jointly own the home you and your partner live in, it is critical that you make legal plans to allow the person who does not own it to continue to live there after the owner dies. One option that couples have is to put the home in a trust. You can fund the trust to take care of things like maintenance, repairs, and taxes. The trust can also stipulate that the partner can continue to reside at the property in the event of incapacitation.
Most people want their loved ones to make medical decisions for them if they are incapacitated. For unmarried couples, some planning is needed to make this possible. Partners will need to choose and implement an advance directive called a health care surrogate, which allows one person to designate another to make medical decisions if the doctor deems them incapacitated. Incapacitation is not always permanent. For example, when you are under general anesthesia, your health care surrogate can make critical decisions for your care on your behalf.
Incapacitation also requires a stand-in to make financial decisions for the incapacitated person. Many people who are not married choose to designate their partner as their attorney-in-fact under durable power of attorney. If the estate is in a trust, they can designate their partner as a co-trustee or successor trustee.
Estate Planning for Unmarried Couples Does Not Have to Be Difficult
Get in touch with the attorneys at Casal & Moreno today to discuss your needs.