Whenever people hear the term “estate planning,” they often envision a married couple with kids. However, estate planning guidance is just as crucial for those who do not fit the stereotypical couple profile – a.k.a. unmarried partners. Why? A pivotal piece of planning for your future requires implementing an estate planning strategy that’ll successfully carry out your wishes should you become incapacitated or pass unexpectedly.
So, the reality is, if you are not legally married to your partner, and you have no estate plan in place, you will not be able to inherit assets from one another or make vital decisions about medical care should the occasion arise. To ensure all your needs are properly addressed, here are 6 estate planning tips for unmarried partners.
- Combine Ownership of Property
If you and your partner are not married, collectively having joint ownership will ensure property owned is passed down without the hassles.
- Get It in Writing
Is your partner’s name listed on assets like your bank accounts, retirement funds or life insurance? If desired, you can opt to update your documents and include your partner in the paperwork. Without specific beneficiary designation, your partner will not have access to any of these accounts. Even something as simple as contacting your cellphone carrier to close an account will be an arduous and head-inducing task if your partner isn’t listed as an approved party on your account.
- Speak with a Trusted Attorney
Initiating an attorney is a powerful tool. No partner wants to have the burden of dealing with financial affairs, debt or unpaid bills if their significant other were to suddenly become disabled. Leveraging a credible and knowledgeable estate planning attorney will be beneficial with just one, straightforward, signed document.
- Establish an Updated Will
Prior to a loved one passing, a Will should be created and left in their honor. Deciding who will be your executor is a crucial decision, so select wisely. The executor is essentially in control of everything to do with your estate, possessions, bills and the closing of all open accounts.
- Appoint a Health Care Proxy
Even if you’re young, accidents happen. It’s imperative to designate a trusted individual as the party responsible for communicating your wishes regarding medical treatment should the need arise. This is best known as Health Care Proxy. Health Care Proxy is appointing someone to act as their agent strictly when dealing with anything medical, opposed to financial. This can be difficult at times, considering not everyone in the family will agree. Keep in mind, this does not need to be a family member. Perhaps you want to appoint your partner as the person who will carry out this responsibility; just be aware that these wishes and concerns need to be communicated and accepted by the agent prior.
- Understand Revocable Trusts
As an unmarried couple, having a revocable trust is especially important. This is also a highly effective way to avoid a probate situation. In short, probate is a term used for when a Will is not in place and is distributed to one by the court of law. Therefore, not one person is assigned to it and one is created for you.
According to EdlerLawAnswers, “A trust is a legal arrangement through which one person holds legal title to property for another person.” As the creator of a revocable trust, you are called the “grantor” or the “donor.” Feel overwhelmed by the prospect of taking on that role? Don’t sweat it, you are allowed to have a co-trustee on board with you to help guide you with these important financial decisions.
Estate planning for unmarried couples is equally as important as creating a plan for a married couple. With the proper guidance and planning, your property and wishes can be carried out successfully without any speed bumps. To learn more about the estate planning process and begin setting up your future for success, contact our team of experts today.