Estate Planning for Unmarried Couples
Estate planning involves the legal structuring of the disposition of one’s current and projected assets. Estate plans should account for both expected and unexpected life events, and they should contain provisions addressing asset distribution in both life and death. Estate planning is particulary important for unmarried couples, as they are generally less protected than those who are married. Simply put, it’s imperative to have an estate plan in place, particularly if you’re unmarried and in a long-term relationship.
Common Estate Planning Considerations
Wills – It’s important that each partner in an unmarried couple has a will in place. In the absence of a valid will, the state determines who will inherit each partner’s assets upon death. Courts typically distribute assets to surviving blood relatives, with the surviving partner receiving nothing. Therefore, if one partner in an unmarried couple wishes to leave property, accounts, or other assets to the other, it’s imperative that a valid will be drafted.
Health Care – Health care issues should be addressed during the estate planning process. Healthcare directives will typically authorize medical providers to discuss a partner’s health conditions with the other. Without such an agreement, health care providers may only be permitted to discuss personal health information with immediate family members of the patient.
Children – Planning for child care and custody is particularly important for unmarried couples. Issues involving children are typically addressed in each partner’s will, including the naming of guardians to ensure that both partners’ preferences regarding child care are honored. An additional way to address this issue is via a joint adoption agreement, which outlines the parenting duties of both partners.
Home – The family home is an important issue to address for unmarried couples, particularly for those couples that wish to leave the home to surviving children while also protecting the interests of each partner. A common way of addressing this issue is the creation of a life estate for the surviving partner. A properly drafted life estate agreement ensures that the surviving partner retains the right to remain in the home until death or some other event requiring relocation, at which point the home would transfer to any remaining children.
In addition to those listed above, other estate planning issues include:
- Power of attorney designations
- Final arrangement directives
- Living and charitable trusts
- Life insurance planning
- Probate administration
- Assignment of retirement plans and accounts
Estate planning can be complicated, particularly if you are an unmarried partner in a long-term relationship. In order to protect your rights and plan for your future, please consider contacting an attorney to discuss your estate planning options. Please contact us for a free consultation at (518) 462-5601.
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