In the past, society would have highly disapproved of a couple’s choice not to marry. Today, however, deciding against marriage is becoming more commonplace.
Happy couples in the public eye, like Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell, make long-term partnerships sans marriage more acceptable for society at large. They also bring awareness to the positive aspects of choosing not to marry.
People decide to build a life together without getting married for many reasons. Some simply don’t believe in marriage, while others see no need for it. Whatever the reason, though, marriage doesn’t need to be a part of your life.
If you’ve chosen this path, there are several factors to be aware of. For instance, you and your partner should think seriously about engaging in estate planning for unmarried couples.
The Struggle for Unmarried Couples
While it is perfectly acceptable not to marry your partner, there are some struggles unmarried couples can face. Legally, marriage creates marital rights for spouses. For example, upon the death of a spouse, the other spouse has the right to inherit property and assets. Without a legal marriage, couples do not benefit from marital rights.
Very few states recognize common-law marriage, which gives cohabitating couples certain rights. California is not one of these states. If you decide to remain unmarried, it’s important to recognize and plan for hurdles you may encounter along the way.
Long-Term Partners Should Prioritize Planning
Estate planning for unmarried couples is crucial. You don’t have inherent rights given to married couples, so you must take action to protect yourself, your partner, and your family under certain circumstances.
The following are some of the steps to prioritize in your planning process. For personalized guidance, consult with a local estate planning attorney.
Write Out Your Wills
Your will is the most important document in your estate plan. It contains information regarding your property, assets, and heirs. You and your partner should create wills detailing how you want your property distributed upon your passing. Having a will in place can:
- Make the administration of your estate much easier
- Take the pressure off your family at your death
- Help ensure your partner gets the property and assets you wish to leave them
Your will is essential because it names your estate executor and heirs and contains all your wishes for the distribution of your assets.
Make Powers of Attorney and Living Wills
Along the same lines as a will, a power of attorney and living will are part of a complete estate plan. A power of attorney is a document giving your chosen agent the authority to act on your behalf. Should you become disabled or incapacitated, it allows your agent to take certain actions regarding your finances and medical care.
A living will, also referred to as an advanced healthcare directive, is a legal document detailing the type of medical treatment you want should you be unable to make your own decisions. Because your partner may be unable to make decisions for you, it helps ensure your medical care aligns with your preferences.
Title Assets in Both Names
If you and your partner have property, it’s best to own it as joint tenants with a right of survivorship. That way, if one of you passes away, the other can take ownership.
Without owning property together under the right type of ownership arrangement, you might find it difficult, or even impossible, to retain the property should something happen to either partner.
Designating your partner as a beneficiary can help guarantee they get your assets when you pass away. You can designate beneficiaries for some of your valuable assets, including bank accounts and insurance policies.
An Experienced Estate Planning Attorney Can Help Protect You for the Future
Anyone can become overwhelmed by the prospect of estate planning. For unmarried couples, the process can be even more stressful. Fortunately, an estate planning lawyer with extensive experience can assist you with your plans for the future.
The legal team at OC Wills & Trusts focuses on estate planning, wills, and trusts. We proudly serve clients in Orange County, CA, and the surrounding areas. Contact us today to schedule your consultation.