For many Americans, partnership no longer needs to be formalized in married. Unmarried couples can live together and share every aspect of their lives without that slip of paper. However, some laws are still antiquated and require strategic estate planning for unmarried couples who wish to provide for one another if one of them passes away or becomes incapacitated.
With so many complex laws and tax regulations involved in estate planning, you should seek legal advice from an experienced attorney. At Barnes Cadwell Law, we will create an estate plan that considers every aspect of your lives. Call us today at (317) 804-5058.
Do Unmarried Couples Need an Estate Plan?
An estate plan does not only decide what happens to your stuff when you die. It can also develop a plan for who cares for you when you become incapacitated. Estate plans are essential for both married and unmarried couples who want their own wishes carried out in the future.
Estate plans for unmarried couples look similar to those for married couples. However, it is much more important that unmarried couples have one because they do not have many of the same legal protections as married couples.
The legal system affords many benefits to married couples, including:
- Social security benefits
- Filing joint tax returns
- Filing a joint bankruptcy
- Immigration options
- Homestead rights
- Visits to the hospital
It can be difficult for unmarried couples to obtain the same benefits without legal documents in place, such as an estate plan.
Necessary Parts of Estate Planning for Unmarried Couples
Although every estate plan looks different because every couple will have different needs, there are some considerations that all estate plans should have.
A good estate plan can help you avoid probate, which may not transfer your stuff to your partner. Instead, probate may give your assets to blood relatives, even if that is against your wishes. Your partner would have no rights to your house and other possessions after you pass away if your estate goes through rigid intestacy laws.
You can transfer your assets into a living trust that is jointly owned by both you and your partner. This is not the same as a last will and testament. There are many differences between a will and a trust. In some situations, your partner might inherit your house or they might have the right to live in it for as long as they want. Essentially it avoids probate.
You can also create a joint tenancy with your partner so that you both own property together. Upon the death of one joint tenant, the other automatically becomes the owner of those assets. Although there are challenges with a joint tenancy, especially if you owe a mortgage, it is an option to avoid probate.
Appoint Your Partner as Your Attorney-in-Fact.
An essential estate planning document for unmarried couples is the Durable Power of Attorney or Health Care Surrogate. This power of attorney will allow your partner to act for you in financial and medical situations if you become incapacitated.
Your Partner Should Be Your “Pay-on-Death Beneficiary.”
You should name your partner on all insurance policies, retirement plans, and bank accounts as your “pay-on-death beneficiary.” This will ensure they receive your assets upon death.
Create a Digital Estate Plan.
You will want to create a plan for your digital assets as well, such as cryptocurrency, websites, e-mail, Facebook accounts, and more. Upon your death, you will want your partner or someone close to you to take over these accounts.
Instruct Your Partner of Your Wishes.
You should write a letter of instruction to your partner and save it with your estate plan to ensure they understand where all of your assets are located and how to obtain them.
Contact an Estate Planner for Help With Your Future
Estate planning for unmarried couples can be more complex than it seems. Don’t take a chance that something will be missed. Call Barnes Cadwell Law today at (317) 804-5058.