Often times, unmarried couples believe that they cannot create an estate plan together. Fortunately this is not the case because it is important that unmarried couples plan for their future. Many states do not recognize common law partnerships, and this makes it is difficult for a surviving partner to gain the same benefits as a surviving spouse. If there is no estate plan in place when one partner dies in an unmarried couple, then the state will deal with the assets of the deceased by enacting a sort of default estate plan. Usually the assets will then be passed on to the closest relatives rather than the partner, regardless of the length of their relationship. A couple should consider planning their estate in the following ways:
1. Write Wills Including Your Partner. You may name your partner as a beneficiary of your estate in your will and then they will be the first person to receive your assets instead of the closest relative.
2. Title Any Property You Own Together. If you own property together, it is best to title it so that it ensures your partner retains all rights to the property. The rights will automatically transfer to the partner through “rights of survivorship”. You can avoid probate by doing this. If the property is owned by one partner rather than jointly, you may consider a transfer-on-death deed that designates your partner as a beneficiary of the property when the owner dies. This form of deed can be revocable, it helps avoid probate and can be changed should the couple break up. This can be a confusing area of the law, so hiring an estate planning lawyer can be useful.
3. Health Care Directives and Powers of Attorney. Blood relatives and spouses are guaranteed to be able to visit loved ones in the hospital as well as make decisions on your behalf. Unmarried partners may not be able to do this without the creation of health care directives naming them as the person you would like to make decisions for you regarding healthcare. Be sure you have included the healthcare power of attorney, HIPPA authorization and a living well as well.
4. Naming a Durable Power of Attorney. Listing your partner as your durable power of attorney lets them make financial decisions for you should you become unable to speak or incapacitated; and without this designation, they will be unable to take the reigns.
5. Be Sure to List Designated Beneficiaries. One of the easiest and quickest ways to plan your estate is to name beneficiaries on any and all accounts that allow it. Assets held in bank accounts, retirement 401(k)s, or life insurance policies will be passed on to the named beneficiaries you have chosen when you pass on.
Contact an Attorney
Estate planning can be tricky and it is not advisable to create your estate plan by yourself. Instead, contact an estate planning attorney to solidify your future and be sure that your partner is included in your plans. Without your say so, your partner may be left out of important decisions, property and assets that you wish them to acquire upon your passing. Avoid probate and heartache by visiting an estate planning attorney such as the estate planning attorney Scottsdale AZ to properly secure your assets.
Thanks to authors at Arizona Estate Planning Attorneys for their insight into Estate Planning.