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5 Estate Planning Concerns for Unmarried Couples

5 Estate Planning Concerns for Unmarried Couples

Estate planning is the best way to make plans for the end of your life and your death. Though it can be an uncomfortable subject, it’s one of the most important aspects of financial planning. A Laguna Niguel estate planning attorney can help you understand the ins and outs of different documents and plans.

Careful estate planning will allow you and your partner to plan for the future and ensure that they will have a say in healthcare decisions and inheritances

Major concerns to keep in mind in estate planning for unmarried couples 

Healthcare Decision

Married couples have the right to make decisions about each other’s healthcare if one spouse is incapacitated. However, the law will usually choose family members to fill this role for an unmarried partner. 

There are ways to ensure that your partner is in charge of making healthcare decisions on your behalf and you can assign them the role of your healthcare proxy. This role is also called the durable medical power of attorney. 

Your healthcare proxy will be able to make medical decisions on your behalf while you are incapacitated. This goes into effect if you are unconscious or not in the correct mental state to make your own decisions. 

It’s important to ensure that someone you trust is able to make medical decisions for you. This may be after an accident, a health crisis, or even end-of-life care.

General Power of the Attorney

Choosing a power of attorney (POA) is a useful way to prepare for possible illnesses or incapacitation. 

Without a designated power of attorney, no one will be able to legally take care of your affairs without being appointed a conservator. The process of conservatorship takes considerable time and legal fees, and the conservator will be chosen by a judge instead of you.

General POA gives another person control over your affairs if you aren’t able to handle them yourself. This includes medical, financial, and legal matters. 

For example, this person will be able to handle your financial matters, pay your bills, and complete other taxes.

This designation will make sure your partner is able to handle as many of your affairs as possible. This will make it easier to keep up your life together while you are sick, or to prepare for end-of-life care.

Joint Property Ownership

Married couples get the benefit of certain rights, including the right to inheritance in most situations. However, you’ll need to make intentional plans to ensure your partner will inherit your property if you aren’t married.

When it comes to homeownership, sharing the property jointly provides security to both partners. You must share ownership equally to be considered joint tenants. 

If you are joint tenants, that means you have equal shares in the house. In this situation, if one of you dies, the other owner will take over the deceased person’s share and become the full owner. This is called the right of survivorship, and it allows you to skip probate court.

Even if you choose to have one partner listed as the sole owner, you may be able to meet with a lawyer and create a contract that describes you as a joint owner. A knowledgeable estate attorney can provide advice on the subject.

Writing A Wil

Writing a will is an essential step in any estate plan. While your bank accounts, trusts, and other assets may have designated beneficiaries, a will still serves an important purpose. 

When a person dies without a will, that person is considered intestate, and the law will determine what happens to their estate. Most laws are written with married couples in mind, and an unmarried partnership doesn’t typically hold the same weight in the eyes of the law. 

It allows you to write out instructions for your last wishes, including how you wish to be buried, and distribute your assets to the people you want to inherit them. For example, you can list a vehicle, a painting, and other valuables. 

You’ll also be able to name a guardian for any minor children. That prevents the courts from making that decision for you. As good as their intentions may be, they often don’t have the full picture of family dynamics, and the process of finding a guardian can be stressful for a child.

Another benefit of having a will is the ability to choose an executor, who will complete tasks like paying off your final bills and closing your bank accounts. 

Creating a Trust

Creating a trust is an excellent way to plan for the future. It allows you to designate beneficiaries and set terms for their inheritances as well. 

For unmarried couples, a trust will help you share access to your finances. Instead of dealing with complicated legal issues, you can have a trust with clear-cut instructions that allow your partner to handle money on your behalf in certain situations. 

You’ll also be able to avoid probate court for all assets held in the trust. Instead, they’ll transfer to your beneficiaries, such as your partner, without delay. 

Most people use a revocable trust for this purpose because you can make changes to it at any time. It’s possible to transfer assets in and out, and change the beneficiaries over time. You’ll also be able to access your assets at any time, unlike the assets held in an irrevocable trust.

Work with an Experienced Laguna Niguel Estate Planning Attorney

To create a trust that suits your needs and follows local regulations, you’ll need a trust attorney. Orange County courts use precise legal language and an experienced attorney can handle the task for you. 

Making plans for your estate now will reduce stress for you and your partner in the event of an illness or death. Unmarried couples may need to do some extra paperwork, but a competent trust attorney can help you navigate the law and make the best choices for your situation. 

Careful planning will ensure you and your partner have the legal protections you need. To make an appointment for a consultation, contact us at Parker Law Offices today.

Maria Parker assists her clients plan for their end of life health care wishes and the ultimate distribution of their wealth after death. She personally experienced the importance of planning at the time her father passed away.

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Wills & Trusts, Estate & Trust Administration, Probate, and Health Care Power of Attorney
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