here to shed light on an often-overlooked topic: estate planning for unmarried couples. Contrary to common belief, estate planning isn’t exclusively reserved for married individuals. It’s a crucial consideration for every adult, regardless of marital status, age, or income level. The goal? To keep your loved ones out of court and away from conflicts.
In fact, estate planning can be even more critical for unmarried couples. Despite years of commitment and a relationship that mirrors marriage in many ways, the law often does not recognize your union as it does for married couples. This distinction becomes paramount if one partner becomes incapacitated or passes away, highlighting the importance of having a solid estate plan in place.
Let’s dive into some essential estate planning strategies for unmarried couples.
1. Wills and Trusts: Safeguarding Your Partner’s Future
Wills: If you’re unmarried and pass away without a plan, your assets will be distributed according to your state’s intestate laws, typically favoring family members like parents and siblings. Unfortunately, these laws offer no protection for your unmarried partner. To ensure your partner inherits your assets, at the very least, create a will.
A will outlines your wishes for asset distribution after your death. You can name your partner, or even a close friend, as the beneficiary of some or all of your assets. However, remember that certain assets, such as life insurance, pensions, and 401(k)s, are not governed by wills. Instead, they go directly to the person named in the beneficiary designation. To guarantee your partner inherits these assets, designate them as the beneficiary.
Living Trusts: While wills and beneficiary designations are effective for asset distribution, they fall short in specific scenarios. They do not operate in the event of your incapacity, which could occur before your passing. In such cases, your partner may struggle to access essential assets for bill payments or even face eviction from your home, with a family member appointed as your guardian.
Furthermore, the probate process associated with wills can be lengthy, and assets passed via beneficiary designations lack protection from creditors and lawsuits. A superior alternative is placing assets you want your partner to inherit into a living trust. Trusts facilitate asset transfer during incapacity and avoid probate, saving time and money. Moreover, they shield assets from creditors, future relationships, and unforeseen legal disputes.
For personalized guidance on choosing between a will or trust for asset transfer, consult with us.
2. Durable Power of Attorney: Ensuring Financial Security
Estate planning traditionally centers on post-mortem scenarios, but planning for potential incapacity is equally crucial. If you become incapacitated and have not designated someone to manage your finances, the court will appoint an agent on your behalf. This agent might be a family member who doesn’t prioritize your partner or a professional guardian who imposes hefty fees, potentially depleting your estate.
Given the unlikely scenario where your unmarried partner becomes the court’s first choice, granting your partner (or a trusted friend) a durable power of attorney is essential. This estate planning tool provides immediate authority to manage your financial matters during your incapacity. Your partner gains broad powers, including paying bills, handling taxes, managing your business, collecting government benefits, selling your home, and overseeing your banking and investment accounts.
Granting durable power of attorney to your partner is especially vital if you cohabitate. Without it, the court-appointed individual could legally force your partner out of your home with little to no notice, leaving them homeless.
Consulting with LCO Law: Your Path to Informed and Empowered Decisions
At LCO Law, we’re here to guide you toward informed, educated, and empowered choices to protect yourself and your loved ones. Reach out to us today to initiate a Legacy Wealth Planning session. We go beyond document drafting, helping you achieve unparalleled financial organization and make the best choices for your loved ones.
Our Legacy Planning session empowers you to navigate life and death decisions with confidence. To get started, call our office at 813-480-2106. Mention this blog post to discover how you can receive this $850 session for only $100.
Remember, estate planning isn’t just for the married; it’s essential for unmarried couples too. Let us help you secure your future and protect the ones you love most.