Estate Planning Tips for Life Partners

Laguna Niguel estate planning attorney

For unmarried life partners, careful estate planning is essential. The law doesn’t offer them the same protections as it does for married couples, in terms of inheritance and end-of-life care. A Laguna Niguel estate planning attorney can help you prepare legal documents that ensure your partner is provided for in the event of your death. 

Estate planning for life partners can provide you with peace of mind and the assurance that you and your partner have your affairs in order.

Why is Estate Planning Important for Unmarried Couples?

It’s increasingly common for life partners to cohabitate and share finances without being married. For these couples, estate planning is especially important. 

Inheritance laws prioritize a person’s legal spouse and family. That means that even long-term unmarried couples won’t inherit from each other without any legal documentation specifying the inheritance. 

If the two of you cohabitate, this can present problems if a homeowner dies before the other partner. The homeowner’s beneficiaries, typically the closest living family, will have the legal right to evict the surviving partner and sell or use the house for their own purposes unless estate documents instruct otherwise.

Another concern is end-of-life care. Instead of being able to make decisions on behalf of your partner, their family will have the final say on issues like life support. However, power of attorney (POA) documents can designate you and your partner as responsible for each other’s end-of-life and other medical decisions in case of an emergency.

With the right legal documents and a meeting with a knowledgeable attorney, you can ensure that your partner has legal priority when it matters most.

How Can You Pass On Property to a Life Partner?

Estate planning provides several options for passing your assets on to a partner you aren’t married to. There are several legal documents useful to determine who will receive your assets.

Creating a will, for example, can help protect your partner and ensure they inherit items from your estate. A valid and well-written will can make your final wishes clear and distribute assets among your loved ones. 

Some people favor trusts for their privacy and the ability to add specific instructions before beneficiaries can receive their inheritances. Trusts are complex legal documents and a trust attorney Orange County can help determine if they are right for you.

You can protect your loved ones by keeping the money safely held in the trust if necessary, which is helpful if you have children, disabled loved ones, or those who need to protect their money from divorce proceedings or litigation. 

Another option is a life estate document. This is focused specifically on property ownership, making it an excellent option if homeownership is one of your main estate planning concerns. 

When you are making plans for your estate as part of an unmarried partnership, it’s important to consider all your options and choose the ones that fit your needs best.

What is a Life Estate?

A life estate document allows a property owner to assign lifetime occupancy of their property over to another person. It’s possible to use a life estate for any kind of real estate, not just homes. It’s an effective way to designate someone as your beneficiary through a will or trust.

It can ensure that a surviving partner will inherit the house after the sole owner’s death. It provides that person with a stable permanent residence but doesn’t grant them the typical rights we associate with ownership. The sole owner will still be legally and financially responsible for the home. 

A life estate is a form of ownership that allows the life estate holder to remain occupying the property until their death, while ownership of the property is held by other named beneficiaries. After the life estate holder’s death, complete ownership immediately transfers to the designated beneficiaries. 

To establish a life estate interest, you’ll need to specify in your trust that the occupant retains the use of the property until death. You will also need to name the intended future beneficiary of the property. While the life estate tenant enjoys full use of the property, the remaining beneficiary does have some say in what happens to the property.

The occupant will need approval from the remainder beneficiary before making major decisions about the property, such as selling it or taking out a mortgage. Either of those decisions would impact the remainder beneficiary, which is why their consent is needed. 

A life estate generally cannot be revoked or changed without the beneficiary’s consent. This makes it a fairly permanent decision, and one that shouldn’t be made lightly. 

How Does a Life Estate Interest Benefit Your Partner?

A life estate interest allows you to direct the inheritance process by specifying that your partner is the designated beneficiary of your property, even though the two of you aren’t married. This is a necessary part of estate planning for unmarried couples

Life estate has many other benefits for your partner. By including the provision in your estate plan, you prevent the need for the property to go through probate, which is a long and expensive court process to determine who will inherit from you.  It often delays the transfer of property and adds red tape to the inheritance process.

A life estate is a stable arrangement for the surviving partner, giving them the right to stay in the residence until their death.

Plan Your Life Estate and Protect Your Life Partner

A life estate is a lasting decision and has many benefits for long-term couples who don’t intend to get married. We can help you understand the ins and outs of a life estate before you commit to one.

Set up a consultation with our estate planning attorney, contact us at 949-867-4818 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.

Contact Us

If you have any questions and would like to make an appointment for a consultation, fill out the form and we will get in touch with you shortly.
Estate Planning Attorney in Orange County, CA
Wills & Trusts, Estate & Trust Administration, Probate, and Health Care Power of Attorney
© 2024 Estate And Trust Lawyer. All Rights Reserved.