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If you’re living with a romantic partner, you might just assume that the law will recognize your relationship should something unexpected happen to either of you. However, if you’re not married, this is not necessarily the case. Estate planning with an unmarried partner becomes extra important. Whether it’s establishing a power of attorney or setting up a will or trust, proper estate planning is necessary to avoid having one partner being shut out of important health care decisions or an inheritance.
Healthcare Planning for Unmarried Partners
Healthcare planning involves deciding what will happen if you or your partner become incapacitated or are otherwise incapable of making healthcare decisions. If you ignore this essential component of estate planning, then you or your unmarried partner risk being shut out of any decision-making that must be made when it comes to healthcare issues. To avoid this unpleasant situation, you’ll want to draft a durable power of attorney. This allows you to name a person who will be responsible for making healthcare decisions on your behalf, including questions of treatment, medication, and hospitalization. It is also a good idea to complete an advanced healthcare directive. This will allow you and your partner to specify what will happen to either of you in potentially end-of-life decisions. Since these can be difficult decisions to make, it’s important that you and your partner talk these issues over until you know exactly how you each feel.
Wills and Trust for Unmarried Partners
Similar to being shut out of healthcare decisions, if you or your partner die without a will, then your assets may not end up going the way you intended. If an unmarried individual passes on, their assets are subject to a court’s judgment and their partner may receive nothing. To avoid this situation, it is important to set up a will or trust. While a will allows you to name the person or people who will inherit your assets, it can also be disputed by family members. To avoid this situation—as well as the burdensome probate process—setting up a trust can be a better option. This places the responsibility for distributing your assets in the hands of a trustee who is legally bound to carry out your wishes. Finally, if you have any retirement accounts or life insurance, you’ll want to be sure that your partner is named as the beneficiary of these accounts. This will ensure that your stuff will go where and to whom you wanted, whatever your marital status.
Contact the Law Firm of Christopher W. Dumm
If you have any questions about how estate planning works for unmarried partners, we’re here to help. The Law Firm of Christopher W. Dumm has many years of experience helping couples make the best possible decisions when it comes to their estate. Give us a call today at 417-623-2062 or fill out the form below to get started.