As more and more long-term couples delay marriage or choose not to marry, estate planning becomes more complicated. That’s since in addition to a great party and the fattiest cake known to man, marriage offers a range of end-of-life benefits not given to couples who choose to remain unwed. A quick review of some documents to have up-to-date:
- Will and living trust – Upon death, property does not pass automatically and tax-free to your partner as it would if you were married. Without a will, your assets will go to your blood relatives (next of kin), not your partner. A living trust is harder to contest than a will and gives you the opportunity to specifically title assets with the intent of passing them to your partner.
- Power of attorney – Financial matters can be handled by either spouse relatively easily, but it becomes more complicated for non-married couples if a POA isn’t in place. The POA could be ongoing or could “spring” into effect in the event of incapacity. It can cover financial transactions only or be more general.
- Health care proxy and living will – As anyone who has followed the Marriage Equality debate over the last few years, medical decision making is one of the key benefits granted to married couples but not to non-married couples. If you are not married the only legal way to give each other the right to make healthcare decisions in the event one of you cannot make those decisions for yourself, is to have these documents executed.
We highly recommend using an estate planning attorney to help you through the legal maze of ensuring you are properly covered for all medical and end-of-life contingencies. If you need a recommendation, please give us a call.
Source: Essential Life Documents for Common Law Couples, Judy Martel, Forbes Magazine © 2015