For many couples that aren’t legally married, estate planning can look a little differently. In most cases, it is more important to have your estate planning done if you are unmarried. After-death processes that automatically defer to the legal spouse will not apply to your situation, so you need to go out of your way to name your significant other as that person. Or, in some cases, specify someone else you would like to handle your assets after your death.
Estate Planning Tips for Couples Who Are Not Legally Married
Here are some steps you can take in estate planning if you are in a relationship but not married:
Power of Attorney: If something were to happen to you where you couldn’t communicate your wishes, you could assign your significant other or a trusted family member a power of attorney to speak for you. You can choose one or more person for this, and they will be in charge of all legal and financial dealings on your behalf. Without assigning power of attorney, your partner may not be able to pay bills for you and keep your finances in order while you are incapacitated.
Healthcare Proxy: You can designate your partner as your healthcare proxy to make all health decisions for you if needed. If this document is not legally executed, then your significant other may be shut out of important decisions about your health.
Joint Ownership: If you are worried about your assets if you were to pass away, be sure to own the home and all property jointly. When all assets are owned jointly with the right of survivorship, the surviving owner will keep the assets and avoid probate.
Beneficiary Selection: When writing up your will, be sure to specify the beneficiaries, including your significant other. Do not assume that all assets will go to your partner because you’ve been together a long time. Each state works differently regarding common law marriage. It is best to name your partner as a beneficiary in your will and all life insurance policies if you so choose.
Take these estate planning steps to ensure your partner's rights if you were to become incapacitated or pass away. Just because you aren’t married doesn’t mean you don’t want your significant other to have rights to your assets and property.
If you have estate planning on your to-do list and are dragging your feet, contact Miles & Hatcher, LLP, to get started today. Sitting down with a qualified team will help you get organized and have your assets in order if something were to occur unexpectedly. Please call to arrange a free consultation: (909) 481-4080.