Estate Planning for Unmarried Couples is Essential

For various reasons, not every couple wants to get married. But for a long-term, committed couple, the consequences of not having an estate plan in place can be severe. This is because our laws provide various benefits and status to legally wed spouses but not to unwed partners. Estate planning is essential for unmarried couples who choose not to get married in order to protect property, to protect each other, and to ensure healthcare decision-maker status.

Passing Assets to a Partner upon Death
If a married person dies without a will (also known as dying intestate), the state will distribute the decedent’s assets according to a statutory plan. And while that statutory plan is slightly different in every state, one thing is the same: intestate succession favors family members. A surviving spouse is typically entitled to a significant share of the estate. Without a will or trust in place, a long-term partner will likely receive nothing.

To ensure that assets are passed on according to their wishes and that their partner is provided for, unmarried couples should consider creating a will or trust. Without a will or trust in place, state laws will direct how assets are distributed, usually exclusively to family members—or, if none can be located, the estate may escheat to the state.

In addition to a will or trust, there are other strategies available to pass assets to a partner. Joint ownership of assets, such as a home, can be beneficial for unmarried couples. This ensures that the partner can manage the asset in case of the other’s incapacity and obtain ownership in case of the other’s death. Finally, using payable-on-death or transfer-on-death designations naming the partner as beneficiary for life insurance policies, retirement accounts, and other assets ensures that the partner receives the asset at death. An added benefit to these strategies is that they may also avoid formal probate procedures.

Decision Making for an Incapacitated Partner
A durable power of attorney is another important tool for unmarried couples to consider. It allows one partner to designate the other to make financial decisions, medical decisions, or both on their behalf in case of incapacity. Advance healthcare directives should also be considered to ensure that one partner is authorized to make medical decisions for the other. Without these documents in place, a partner will likely have no standing to guide healthcare decision making as hospitals and care facilities are typically obligated to defer to family members for decisions on behalf of an incpacitated person.

An experienced estate planning attorney can help unmarried couples navigate these complex issues and create estate plans that protect assets and each partner’s well-being.

Work with an Experienced Florida Estate Planning Attorney
We help unmarried partners protect each other with thoughtful estate planning. Call our office at 321-804-2915 or fill out our contact form and we will be in touch to schedule a meeting.