Marriage is not just a partnership, it is a business arrangement, albeit a very loving business arrangement. Marriage can have a significant financial impact on a family and on an estate plan. Many Americans are living together in unmarried relationships more now than ever, which makes understanding estate planning even more important.
You may feel that as an unmarried couple you do not need an estate plan. However, that is not so. Remember what you are leaving behind. Ask yourself, what happens to your belongings or who will take care of you should you become incapacitated and have no other family around to assist you.
These are the types of questions a married couple would ask themselves, so an estate plan for an unmarried couple is just as important, if not more important than for a married couple.
Married couples have certain legal rights by virtue of the fact they are married that do not exist for unmarried couples. Things like receiving Social Security Benefits, joint tax filing, joint bank accounts, immigration status and inheritance, just to name a few legal benefits. Unmarried couples receive no such legal benefits and if you want your partner to receive some of these benefits you would need to take proactive steps to ensure these rights are part of your estate plan.
Let us say, for example, you want to leave your partner something of sentimental value like a piece of jewelry, but a family member wants to claim it when you die. If you die without a will, your partner would have no legal claim to the jewelry even though it may have been your intention to give them the jewelry. Legally, the jewelry would pass to your next-of-kin. Having this “gift” outlined in your Last Will and Testament will avoid this problem and give your partner the legal right to the jewelry.
Another situation is if you are hospitalized and your partner wants to speak with your doctors and review your medical records. Your partner would not have the legal right to do this unless you have appointed them as your Power of Attorney or Health Care Representative in a Living Will.
There are numerous scenarios in which the legal relationship between you and your partner can arise and be very important. The good news is we have tips and answers for these types of scenarios.
With our Smart Law platform estate planning has never been easier. We are equipped with the software and functionality necessary to manage the entire estate planning process on-line without the need to come to our offices. And signing can now be done remotely as well. So, visit our Smart Law page and see how simple we have made estate planning.