Many adults choose to partner together without a marriage certificate; entirely a personal choice with no judgment, however, the proper legal documents can help protect your partnership in the event of disentanglement or death.
Unmarried couples, regardless of the length of the relationship are classified as unrelated individuals in the eyes of the law. Should either partner die without a will, all assets will be handed over to the next of kin. This can leave the assets that each of you helped pay for or accumulated during the years of your relationship extremely vulnerable.
According to the US Census Bureau, approximately 8 million unmarried couples live together. If you and your partner are one of the millions, you can take action today, and avoid jeopardizing your shared power of decision making. Estate planning and medical power of attorneys are essential for everyone, but for the unmarried couple, it becomes of utmost importance.
Here are some documents you should consider to protect yourself.
A will – list what is to be done with your property and designates someone to carry out these wishes.
A living trust – allows your property to go to heirs without going through probate. They are also private whereas a will becomes a public record.
Durable Financial Power of Attorney – this designates a person to make decisions and sign documents on your behalf.
Living Will – details what measures should be taken if you are unlikely to recover from major injuries or are in a vegetative state.
Beneficiary designations – make sure all accounts identify the beneficiaries correctly.
Domestic Partnership Agreement – can be useful if a couple joins their financial lives and later parts ways. It does not carry the same benefits as marriage, and details vary from state to state.
Funeral wishes – have a directive outlining who should make arrangements to avoid any family disagreements.
Go ahead and begin the process today, contact an attorney who specializes in estate planning and family law and put your wishes in writing today.
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