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Why Estate Planning Is Essential for Unmarried Couples

Updated: 5 days ago


Estate Planning in Houston Texas
Estate Planning for Unmarried Couples

While estate planning is important for married couples, it is arguably even more necessary for couples that live together who are not married.


Without an estate plan, married couples would not be able to make end-of-life decisions or inherit from each other.


Estate planning serves two main functions: determining who can make decisions for you if you become incapacitated and who gets your assets when you die.


For those who are married, fortunately there are laws in place to protect spouses who fail to plan, by governing the distribution of property in the event of death. If you do not have a will, property will pass to your spouse or children, or to your parents if you die without a spouse or children.


Estate Planning for Unmarried Partners


There are no laws in place to protect unmarried partners. Without a solid estate plan, your partner may be shut out of the decision-making and the estate. The following are the essential estate planning steps that can help unmarried couples:


Joint Ownership


One way to make sure property passes to an unmarried partner is to own the property jointly, with right of survivorship. If one joint tenant dies, their interest in the property ceases to exist and the remaining joint tenants own the entire property. This is also a good way to avoid probate.


Beneficiary Designations


Make sure to review the beneficiary designations on bank accounts, retirement funds, and life insurance to make sure your partner is named as the beneficiary, if that is your wish. Your partner will not have access to any of those accounts without a specific beneficiary designation.


Statutory Durable Power of Attorney


This appoints an agent to act on your behalf for financial and legal matters in the event of your incapacity. Without it, if you become disabled or unable to manage your affairs for a period of time, your finances could become disordered and your bills not paid – and this would place a greater burden on your partner.


Your partner may have to go to the court to seek the appointment of a conservator, which is an expensive and time-consuming process. All of this can be avoided through a simple document.


Medical Power of Attorney

Similar to a durable power of attorney, a medical power of attorney appoints an agent to make health care decisions for you when you cannot do so for yourself, whether permanently or temporarily. Again, without this document in place, your partner might be shut out by other family members.


If it is important for all of your family members to be able to communicate with health care providers, a HIPAA release will permit medical personnel to share information with anyone and everyone you name, not limiting this function to your health care agent.


Will


Your will says who will get your property after your death. Your will is important for two main reasons:

  1. If you have minor children, it permits you to name their guardians in the event you are not there to continue your parental role.

  2. It allows you to designate the executor who will take care of everything related to your estate, including distributing your possessions, paying your final bills, filing your final tax return, and closing out your accounts.


A revocable trust can be especially important for unmarried couples. It permits the person (or people) you name to manage your financial affairs and it allows you to avoid probate completely. By using a trust and skipping probate, your assets also remain private.


Call an Estate Planning Attorney Today


To determine the estate planning options that are right for you and your partner, speak with an experienced estate planning attorney at Your Legacy Legal Care by calling (281) 218-0880 or contact us here.

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