Many couples who have opted not to get married may believe that estate planning or lack thereof is the same for them as for married couples. Unfortunately, it is not, which is why unmarried couples really need an estate plan.
Whether gay, lesbian, or heterosexual, unmarried couples do not have the same rights as married couples. If you die without a will or a trust, your assets will not be distributed to your partner, no matter how long the relationship. Your estate will go to your family. If you are unmarried and your partner is in an accident and needs someone to make health care decisions, you cannot make those for him or her. Similarly you have no right to access your partner’s medical records or information. If financial decisions need to be made during a period of incapacity, you don’t have the right to do that either without a power of attorney signed by your partner naming you as an agent to handle those type of matters. Also unlike married couples, unmarried couples do not have the benefit of the marital deduction so you could have tax issues by not being married.
With a living trust and all the companion documents such as an Advance Health Care Directive, Durable Power of Attorney for Finances, and a Nomination of Guardians for your minor children, you will be able to insure that your partner inherits your estate and if you have children, they will be taken care of if something should happen to both of you.
Other ways you can provide for disposition of assets upon your death is to name your partner the beneficiary of a life insurance policy. Employee benefits and IRA's can be tricky as some employers will not allow you to designate a partner. You may have to name your trust the beneficiary and make your partner the beneficiary of your trust. Unlike married beneficiaries, unmarried beneficiaries of IRAs do not qualify to roll over an IRA. You can also leave payable on death accounts such as bank accounts or investment accounts to your partner.
With appropriate estate planning, unmarried couples can protect each other and provide for any children they have together. The experienced estate planning attorneys at Scott C. Soady, A Professional Corporation can help you determine how best to implement your wishes and goals for the future.