You’ve been living with your soul mate for nearly a decade, and things are just amazing. You know how your lives will be for years to come, and it’s satisfying that you’ve found someone to spend the rest of your life with. But, have you both talked about everything? Really? Unmarried couples, while just as devoted to each other as those who have taken the plunge, aren’t protected by the same laws. This is why non-traditional couples need to consider specialized estate planning sooner than later in life.
When you’re madly in love and just enjoying life together, a subject like this may not immediately arise, if at all. Yet, it’s just as important as anything else you’ll ever decide. Here’s a perfect example:
Megan and Kevin were living together for years. They were young and in love, and they breezed right through college and got an apartment together without so much as a second thought. They were so excited to begin their new life together that they never took the time to prepare for the worst.
Kevin unfortunately met with an untimely death shortly after they moved in together. Megan, after grieving, assumed that Kevin’s assets would simply pass to her upon his death. However, they never properly set up Kevin’s estate and his assets passed on to family members.
This is an awful scenario that we never think could happen, and yet it does. Sadly, the truth is that this kind of thing happens to people often. They make assumptions about the law instead of learning how it actually functions, and by the time they find out it’s already too late.
The economy isn’t the strongest right now, so the number of unmarried couples living together is increasing. Sharing bills and rent is better than struggling to make it on your own, especially if you’re paired up with someone you are completely dedicated to. Most assume that estate planning is a costly venture that they will never benefit from, but this is far from true.
Where the law is concerned, tradition is held in high regard. Unmarried couples living together do not currently qualify for the same legal rights as married people do. Every state in the U.S. has its own set of rules regarding this particular subject matter, mostly having to do with the unfortunate, but very real, problem of dying without a will. The legal term for this is intestacy.
Some states arrange for an estate to be divided up amongst surviving family members. This does not include family members that are not related by blood, such as step parents…or the person you have lived with for years, but never tied the knot with. A domestic partnership is a wonderful thing, but in some states, it is not enough to acquire the assets of a beloved’s belongings once they are deceased.
That’s not to say that there is no hope. Even though it may seem like the law is slanted against those who cannot be legally married or who choose not to get married, but are no less dedicated to one another, there are several forms of legal documentation that are important to keep in mind.
Documenting power of attorney for your loved one is key for a number of reasons. It empowers your loved one, the person you live with and trust, to make important decisions for you in the event that you are no longer able. This can include medical decisions, as well as legal ones.
Having a will drawn up is an excellent way to ensure that your final wishes can be carried out. Since intestacy law states that only blood related family will be able to have access to your estate after your passing, a will is one of the only ways that your partner will not be cut out of the process.
Setting up a living trust can provide protection for your assets and avoid probate entirely. Almost as importantly, something like this can enable your belongings to be passed on as gifts, which could possibly be beneficial for tax purposes.
Advance healthcare directive documents are written directions by each partner designating the other to make health care decisions for their incapacitated partner. These documents authorize each partner to act as the other’s healthcare surrogate in line with, and as provided for in, Chapter 765 of the Florida Statutes, and otherwise as provided by federal law
It’s a sad fact that the person we choose to spend out life with could be removed from it against our will, and simply because of relatively outdated laws. Modern times call for people to be more proactive in their estate planning and to ensure the financial security of those they love; both conventional and unconventional couples need to keep this in mind during their respective lifetimes.
Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.