An estate plan ensures that your assets are accounted for in the event of your passing. While estate planning is essential for everyone, it is arguably more necessary for unmarried couples who live together. When one partner in an unmarried couple passes, the other cannot inherit the other’s assets or make end-of-life decisions.
Estate planning determines who can make decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated and who receives your assets when you die. For married couples, these decisions are automatically reserved for your partner unless explicitly stated. There are also laws that protect married couples who have failed to plan by distributing property in the event of death. Unfortunately, unmarried couples do not have the luxury of being legally tied and receiving those benefits, which is why estate planning is critical.
Essential Elements of Estate Planning for Unmarried Couples
Without an estate plan, your partner may be forced out of life-changing decisions and lose major assets due to the small fact that you were not married before the time of the accident. To protect your property and partner, consider the following elements that can impact your estate plan:
Your will does more than just designate who receives your property after your death. It also allows you to name the guardian of any minor children and pick a personal representative to take care of everything pertaining to your estate. This includes distributing possessions, filing your final tax return, closing out any accounts, and paying your final bills.
A revocable trust permits the party you name to manage your financial affairs and avoid probate. This will save them stressful and complex situations and seamlessly take over in the event of your absence.
Joint property ownership with the right of survivorship ensures that if one unmarried partner passes, their interest immediately ceases to exist, and the remaining joint tenants own the entire property. In joint ownership cases, the surviving partner may avoid probate.
Beneficiary designations allow an individual to transfer assets directly to others, regardless of the terms of their will. A person can create and review beneficiary designations on bank accounts, retirement funds, and life insurance. They will need to make sure their partner is named as the beneficiary, or they will not have access to any of those accounts.
Durable Power of Attorney
One of the most important estate planning documents you can have is a durable power of attorney (DPOA). This document allows an individual to manage your financial and legal affairs in the event of your incapacity. If you become unable to manage your affairs or pass away and you do not have a DPOA, your finances could become disordered and burden your partner.
A healthcare proxy is similar to a durable power of attorney in that it appoints an agent to make decisions on your behalf when you cannot do so for yourself. This document is specific to healthcare decisions and is vital in an emergency for unmarried couples. For unmarried couples, partners may be shut out of decisions and instead will go to direct family members.
Planning for the possibility of incapacity or death is never easy. However, leaving your partner unable to make decisions on your behalf may be even more challenging and comes with potential dangers. Speak with your lawyer about how they can assist you throughout the estate planning process.
Contact a Fratello Law New York Estate Planning Attorney Today
Our Fratello Law estate planning lawyers understand the intricate workings of estate planning in New York and will guide you through the process so your plan does not miss any important factors. When you work with our community-based, all-women law firm, you partner with compassionate and understanding lawyers. We build trust and high-quality relationships with our experience and knowledge.