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Friday, September 24, 2021

Estate Planning for Unmarried Couples

Statistics show that couples are waiting longer and longer to get married.  In addition, there are many alternatives to marriage, such as domestic partnerships, that are becoming more normalized.  It is important for these couples to understand that there may be a stronger need for estate planning then there is for married couples.  Without proper estate planning, unmarried couples will not inherit or be able to make critical decisions for their significant other.

There are two general purposes to estate planning.  The first is to determine who will inherit your property and assets when you pass away and the second is to determine who can make decisions on your behalf if you are incapacitated.  Without the proper estate planning, an unmarried significant other will not be able to do either.

There are no laws to protect unmarried partners.  If your significant other is injured and in the hospital, even if you have been together for over a decade, you will have no right to see them or make decisions on his or her behalf without a properly executed health care directive.  If your significant other unexpectedly passes away and does not have a will, his or her biological family will inherit everything.

To avoid these issues, it is important for unmarried couples to explore the different estate planning options.  First and foremost, and assuming the unmarried couples want the other partner involved in important decisions and to inherit estates, unmarried couples should execute wills, health care proxies, and powers of attorneys.  This simple process will eliminate a lot of uncertainly and heartache in the future if something unforeseen were to happen.

There are additional options, such as joint ownership of property.  If a couple owns property as joint tenants as opposed to tenants in common, they will have a right of survivorship.  As an added bonus, this setup would avoid probate (but could make a breakup a little more tricky).

A revocable trust is another great estate planning tool that could ease future problems for unmarried couples.

If you have questions regarding estate planning, please contact the Law Offices of Samuel S. Reidy for a free consultation.

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