Estate Planning Tips for Unmarried, Cohabitating Couples

estate planning with a lawyerJust because you are not married does not mean that you cannot create an estate plan together. It is a common misconception that you must be married to share an estate plan. With more couples cohabitating, but staying unmarried, it is important to reassess your estate and how to protect your loved ones – even if you are not bound by a legal marriage certificate.

Four Tips for Your Estate Plan

If you are living with your significant other, you need an estate plan that reflects your current living situation and relationship. Estate planning issues for unmarried couples are difficult, and not as clear as they are for married couples – and a partner could easily miss the family home, your retirement accounts, and support, regardless of whether you have been together (unmarried) for 20 years. That is because estate laws tend to favor married couples and neglect those who are not legally bound. Therefore, if you are ready to protect your estate and your loved one, here are a few things to consider when you create your estate plan:

  1. Draw up your estate plan and list each other as a beneficiary. You and your significant other need to create individual estate plans. Then, you will need to sit down and discuss your beneficiaries. While you will obviously choose one another as beneficiaries, you will also need backups – and you may want to make sure that you both agree on each other’s backups. Then, you will want to list one another on each other’s retirement accounts. Even if your significant other is listed as your beneficiary on bank and retirement accounts, you need an official will that designates him or her as the beneficiary – to cover all bases.
  2. Property must be titled properly. If you and your partner are living in a house that only one partner owns, you have an inheritance issue that needs to be addressed. If the owning partner were to pass away, the non-owning partner would have no legal claim to that property. But, you can prevent this on the title. Just because one partner is on the loan does not mean that he or she is the owner. If both names are listed on the property’s title, then both partners are considered legal owners – regardless of which partner has the financing under their name.
  3. Do not forget about health. While you may be in great health now, consider the future or what would happen if one of you became incapacitated in an accident. In this case, the law becomes fuzzy as to who would have the legal authority to make decisions on your behalf – and likely, the law would refer back to a family member instead of your partner. By having a durable power of attorney, you can designate your partner to manage your health care decisions, as well as manage your property and finances while you are unable to do so.
  4. Plan in case the relationship doesn’t last. While you are tying yourself together with a will, do not forget to plan in case the relationship ends. You can draw up a living together agreement, which determines who is responsible for what if you were to split – since normal divorce laws do not apply in your situation.
  5. Consult with an attorney. While you may find plenty of DIY wills and trusts online, the unmarried, cohabitating couple needs to consult with an estate planning attorney. An attorney will assess both of your estates and help you come up with an estate plan that addresses the unique issues surrounding your relationship.

Contact a Will Attorney in Long Island Today

If you are in need of a new estate plan or you want to protect your assets, as well as your unmarried partner, contact the Law Office of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C. today. He can assist you with your unique estate planning needs. Call 516-605-0625 to schedule a consultation or ask a question online now.

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