Most people wait until they have a significant life event, such as marriage or childbirth, before consulting with an attorney. If you are not married, you may be unaware of the significance of estate planning. Your estate plan has two components: what happens to your possessions after you die and who takes care of you when you can no longer do it for yourself. Your desires for these two points are unlikely to change if you marry. In truth, a married pair’s estate plan is frequently very similar to an unmarried couple’s. The distinction is that legal default rules do not protect an unmarried couple without a solid estate plan.
Estate planning is essential for unmarried couples
Our legal system currently provides many benefits to married couples, including social security benefits, immigration status, joint taxes, hospital visits, inheritance, and more. Assets are automatically handed on to a spouse when a will is missing in many states. In other circumstances, the probate judge grants the spouse asset ownership. On the other hand, an unmarried couple may face a more serious battle. You may be denied access to your hospitalized partner if you do not have the proper power of attorney. If you die, your partner may be denied access to your social security or other benefits.
Communication is key
While it isn’t the most romantic date night, discussing your or your partner’s mortality is crucial to a long-term (read as: forever) relationship. Failure to include your significant other in this plan may result in complications later on. If you have children together, it is even more important to devise a smart strategy. Not only should you decide what happens to your children if one of you dies, but also what happens if both of you die. Decide who will take over guardianship of your children, as this could lead to significant disagreement if a judge has to decide for you.
Consider a living trust
One option for unmarried couples is transferring your possessions to a living trust for yourself or a combined trust with your partner. You would then appoint your business partners as your estate’s successor trustees. After your death, your partner can administer the estate without fear of a probate court ruling. A frequent alternative is to list your partner as a joint renter. Joint tenancy is a type of ownership in which numerous persons share property ownership. The property is transferred to the surviving joint tenant when one of the partners dies.
Developing the necessary trust might be difficult. This is an area where you do not want to take any chances of making a mistake. A blunder in establishing the trust could destroy your intentions and cause more difficulties than were supposed to be solved. Your best bet is to consult an estate planning attorney to verify everything is in order.
Designate who manages your affairs when you can’t manage them yourself
A durable power of attorney (“POA”) is one of the most critical documents you can create. By designating one of your partners as a POA, you grant them the authority to decide on your behalf if you become incapacitated. These decisions may impact end-of-life care if you appoint an advance health care directive. Of course, having in-depth chats with your partner about your desires is essential.
A letter of intent will serve as your partner’s roadmap
A letter of intent informs your partner of everything necessary to manage your estate effectively. A letter of intent is more of a guideline for your assets than a legal instrument. Passwords, PINs, account numbers, debt accounts, and other sensitive information are frequently included in a letter of intent. You can also include funeral instructions. Giving your partner this information makes managing your estate much easier.
Creating an estate plan as unique as you are
Whether you intend to marry your spouse or remain unmarried, making a proper estate plan should be a top priority. Failure to include your partner may have serious implications. While you may be tempted to use a one-size-fits-all online service, only an expert estate planning attorney can manage your individual and unique circumstances to give you total assurance and peace of mind. Call 818-676-9572 or use our online contact form to schedule a meeting.