Essential Estate Planning for Unmarried Couples

Estate planning for unmarried couples can be a critical step to ensuring that each partner’s wishes are respected and legally protected. Unlike married couples, unmarried partners do not automatically receive rights to inherit or make decisions for each other under most state laws. This makes careful, proactive estate planning essential to safeguard your assets and ensure that your partner can manage affairs during difficult times. Here are some estate planning tips for unmarried couples to consider:

Create a Will: It’s essential to have a will to specify how your assets should be distributed. Without a will, state laws determine who inherits your assets, which typically would not include your unmarried partner.

Consider a Trust: A trust can provide more control over how your assets are managed and distributed. You can specify when and how your partner will receive benefits from the trust, which can be particularly useful for managing larger estates or specific needs.

Powers of Attorney: Establishing both financial and healthcare powers of attorney can allow your partner to make decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated. This is crucial because unmarried partners typically do not have legal authority to make such decisions.

Beneficiary Designations: Make sure to update beneficiary designations on life insurance policies, retirement accounts, and other financial accounts. These designations often supersede instructions in wills, so it’s important they reflect your current wishes.

Joint Ownership: Consider holding property jointly with rights of survivorship. This allows the property to pass automatically to the surviving owner without going through probate.

Living Together Agreement: Also known as a cohabitation agreement, this document can outline what happens to your property and finances if the relationship ends or if one partner dies.

Advance Healthcare Directive: Also known as a living will, this document outlines your healthcare wishes if you are unable to communicate them yourself, and can designate your partner as someone who can make decisions on your behalf.

Plan for Digital Assets: Make arrangements for digital assets like social media accounts, online banking, and email accounts. Consider including instructions and necessary passwords in a safe place that your partner can access.

Consult Professionals: It’s wise to work with professionals such as an estate planning attorney and a financial advisor to ensure all legalities are properly addressed and that your financial goals are met.

Regular Updates: Life circumstances change, so it’s important to review and update your estate planning documents regularly to reflect any new situations or changes in your relationship.

Taking the time to establish a comprehensive estate plan is not just about protecting assets—it’s about ensuring peace of mind and security for both you and your partner. If you haven’t started planning, contact Wills, Trusts, Probate & Elder Law Firm, PLLC to discuss your options and start the process. Your future together deserves that security. Call our office at 941-914-9145 or submit an inquiry through our contact form and we will be in touch to schedule a meeting.