Are you in a long-term relationship with a partner that you expect will continue, perhaps for the rest of your lives? You may feel, as many couples do, that there’s no reason to get married.
However, without that state-sanctioned marriage and the associated rights that such a union confers, it’s especially important to put some estate planning documents in place to protect each other’s inheritance and to ensure that you have a say in each other’s medical decisions if you can’t speak for yourself.
If you die without a will (intestate), inheritances are determined by state probate laws. If you don’t have a spouse, your assets will go to biological relatives – regardless of whether you have any relationship with them or not. Your partner could be left with nothing.
Basic estate planning protects your partner
A will and possibly a trust lets you designate the assets you want your partner (and other individuals and organizations) to receive. By giving your partner health care power of attorney, they can participate in making decisions for you if you are injured or seriously ill. With a durable power of attorney, they can deal with financial matters you designate that may not be in their name.
Beyond estate planning documents
There are other things you can do to make a transfer of assets easier:
- You can title jointly owned property and accounts as joint tenants with the right of survivorship.
- You can designate individually owned property accounts as transfers on death to your partner.
- Designate your partner as the beneficiary of your retirement accounts.
These are just a few ways you and your partner can help ensure that you will receive the assets you want each other to have and both have clear authority to deal with matters if a medical emergency occurs.
It’s essential to find out what estate planning options are recommended for unmarried couples so you can take the steps necessary to protect yourselves in the future.