According to the U.S. Census Bureau, today men and women are waiting longer to marry and some are foregoing marriage altogether and opting instead to remain in long-term and committed relationships. In cases where one individual in a committed relationship is involved in a serious car accident or passes away suddenly, his or her partner may have few to no legal rights with regard to making important medical decisions or inheriting personal belongings or assets.
To prevent these types of nightmare scenarios, unmarried couples would be wise to meet with an estate planning attorney who can assist in preparing the documents needed to help provide for a partner financially and grant a partner power to make or be involved in medical decisions.
The following are some of the key estate planning documents that unmarried couples should have:
- Will / Living Trust – Provisions can be included to bequeath certain possessions and assets to a partner
- Durable Power of Attorney – Naming a partner as a durable power of attorney ensures that he or she is able to legally make financial decisions in the event that an individual is incapacitated and unable to do so
- Health Care Power of Attorney – This designation allows a partner to make health care decisions on your behalf
- Beneficiary Designations – Unmarried couples may wish to name a long-term partner as a beneficiary on retirement, investment and insurance accounts
When it comes to estate planning, unmarried couples are not afforded the same legal rights and protections as married couples. Thankfully, there are various estate planning documents that unmarried individuals can use to provide a partner with the same financial and legal benefits and protections.
Source: Fond du Lac Reporter, “Easing the Burden: Tips on estate planning for unmarried couples,” Isabell Mueller, April 23, 2016