Many couples may not be aware that estate planning is even more crucial for unmarried partners then it is for those who are legally married. This is because many states do not recognize common law marriages, and as a result they do not bestow the same benefits upon a surviving partner as they would a surviving spouse. For example, if one part of the unmarried couple passes away with no estate planning in place, the state will enact a “default estate plan” to deal with the deceased’s assets. In most cases, the legal rights to the estate and assets will pass to the closest blood relative, not the partner, no matter how long the unmarried couple was together.
In order to protect themselves and their wishes, unmarried couples should consider the following estate planning:
- Create Wills
In drawing up a will, you can name your partner as beneficiary of your estate. Your partner will be the first person entitled to receive assets for your estate instead of a default blood relative.
- Properly Title Real Property
If you and your partner own real property together, make sure it is titled in a way that ensures “rights of survivorship”. This means that if one of you passes, all rights to the property automatically transfer to the other partner. This helps avoid the probate process.
If only one partner owns the property, consider a revocable transfer-on-death deed. The owner will designate a beneficiary to receive the property upon the owner’s death. These deeds also help avoid probate and, if the couple ever breaks up, the deed can simply be revoked. These areas can get confusing, but an estate planning lawyer Phoenix, AZ citizens trust can help with any questions.
- Designate Beneficiaries
Perhaps the easiest way to plan for your estate is to name beneficiaries on all accounts where such a designation is possible. In general, this means that the assets held in that account will pass to the person(s) you name upon your death. Common accounts that allow for beneficiary designation include:
- Bank Accounts
- Retirement Plans
- Life Insurance Policies
- Create a Durable Power of Attorney
In the event that you become incapacitated, a durable power of attorney will allow your partner to make financial decisions on your behalf. Without a power of attorney designation, your partner will have no right to do this for you.
- Create Healthcare Directives
Unless you are a blood relative or spouse, you may not be able to visit your loved one in the hospital, much less makes decisions on their behalf. Creating a comprehensive set of healthcare directives will avoid this by allowing you to name the person(s) who you want to be able to care for you and make decisions for you. When creating healthcare directives, make sure to include all 3 of the following documents:
- HIPPA Authorization
- Healthcare Power of Attorney
- Living Will
If you and your loved one are interested in creating an estate plan, contact Kamper Estrada, LLP. Our experienced estate planning attorney offers free one-hour consultations.
Thanks to our friends and contributors at Kamper Estrada, LLP, for their insight into estate planning.