As discussed in the prior post, nontraditional families must take steps to provide protection in the event of incapacity or death. The good news is that unmarried couples do have several estate planning strategies available to them to help ensure that their assets and property are protected.
Here are some estate planning strategies that unmarried couples should consider:
Wills: A will is a legal document that specifies how your assets should be distributed after your death. Drafting a valid will ensures your assets are given to the person(s) you choose. Do not leave this up to the legislature or court. Draft your will now!
Revocable Living Trusts: A revocable living trust is a legal document that allows for the transfer of assets outside of the probate process. An unmarried couple can use a revocable living trust to ensure a smooth transfer of wealth and protect their assets. As noted in prior posts, a revocable living trust is private, which can bring peace of mind if you are worried about family members contesting your plan.
Durable Power of Attorney: A durable power of attorney allows one partner to make financial decisions on behalf of the other in the event of incapacity. I believe this is the most powerful document in any estate plan as it provides powers while you are still living. A power of attorney avoids the need for someone to spend the time and money getting a conservatorship if you are incapacitated.
Health Care Directive: A health care directive (aka a living will) is a document that specifies end-of-life wishes, including medical treatments and life support. Unmarried couples should consider creating a living will to ensure that their wishes are respected in the event of incapacity.
Beneficiary Designations: Unmarried couples should consider designating each other as beneficiaries on life insurance policies, retirement accounts, and other assets with transfer-on-death provisions.
In conclusion, estate planning is essential for unmarried couples to ensure that your assets and property go to the beneficiaries they choose. Further, you need a plan to ensure your wishes are respected in the event of incapacity or death. Estate planning strategies such as wills, trusts, durable power of attorney, medical directives, and beneficiary designations should be considered to help ensure a secure financial future.
Call an estate planning lawyer today to protect your family.