Estate planning is significant for unmarried couples, possibly even more so than married couples. This is because married couples have a built-in safety net provided by law. Unmarried couples are at a higher risk due to not having any automatic rights to property or health information for their partner. This article will discuss many issues that unmarried couples face and estate planning solutions that can help them.
Partners may find themselves in a tough spot should they ever have to divide property or try to make healthcare decisions for their partner. Family members on both sides may get involved and try to block the other partner from accessing property or information. The bad part is that family members may have more property rights legally than their partner if the couple is unmarried and have yet to execute the correct legal documents.
Who’s in Charge?
Things can get complicated without a clear plan for inheritance. For example, unmarried partners have no automatic rights, which means your hard-earned assets may not go where you want them to. Also, healthcare decisions can be problematic if you don’t have the proper paperwork. In the event of an emergency, your partner may not be able to make the necessary decisions. Think of estate planning as a safety net that allows you to make decisions on your own regarding your health and property while you still can. You never know when a family member will try to assert their legal rights against your partner should you die or become incapacitated.
What Legal Documents Do Unmarried Couples Need?
Numerous legal instruments can help unmarried couples with estate planning. Nearly everyone has heard of a last will and testament. This important document outlines how assets will be distributed after you die and may name an estate executor. The named executor is responsible for the estate and can hire an attorney, sell property, and contract with third parties regarding the estate. An executor may also handle estate property and distribute items to heirs.
Unmarried couples can face severe challenges if they die without a will. One of the most common issues unmarried couples without a will experience is the surviving partner gets left out in the cold when it comes to assets. You won’t be able to transfer your possessions to your surviving partner if you are unmarried and do not have a will. Family members will be able to step in and take possession of your deceased partner’s assets.
A durable power of attorney is another essential estate planning document for unmarried couples. This helpful document allows your partner to manage your finances if you are incapacitated. A power of attorney gives an individual authority to act on your behalf and manage your financial responsibilities. This will keep you financially stable during strenuous times.
Couples should also consider naming a healthcare proxy. This legal document allows your trusted partner to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are incapacitated. A living will can be added to state your preferences on life-sustaining medical treatments that may save your life. It can also be used to make your choice known for keeping you alive artificially. Failure to execute a healthcare proxy will put your medical future in the hands of your next relative, and this may not align with your wishes.
Executing these legal documents can give unmarried couples peace of mind, knowing that their partner can make important decisions for them and family members cannot interfere.
What Happens Without a Power of Attorney?
Things can get complicated quickly if one partner becomes incapacitated without a power of attorney. Without this document, the other partner will not have the legal authority to handle the incapacitated partner’s affairs. This means they may not have access to bank accounts, investment accounts, bills, or other financial responsibilities. Many government organizations and banks require a power of attorney to give the unaffected partner information. This is why it is important to carefully choose the right person to serve as your power of attorney.
An estate planning attorney can help unmarried couples develop a comprehensive estate plan and protect themselves.
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