Couples that are not married will face many estate-planning problems that they probably did not count on. This is one reason it is so important to consult an estate-planning attorney that can help you navigate the complex and unique situations that you and your partner may face with your estate plan.
One of the biggest problems facing unmarried couples is the estate tax. When you are not married, there are no exemptions that would allow you to pass assets and property to your partner, free of estate taxes.
Estate taxes are just the beginning. Unmarried couples do not qualify for many of the same protections that are automatically extended to couples that have married. When it comes to real estate, you can title the property in such a way that it would pass automatically to your partner when you die, however this could bring about a gift tax if not done correctly. On the other hand, if the house is titled in only one of the partner’s name, and that person dies, the surviving partner will have no claim to the house and could very well end up homeless. It is important to consult an estate planning attorney to help you avoid these pitfalls.
In addition to real estate, it is also important to make sure that you have titled your financial and investment accounts correctly. Beneficiary designations are very important for unmarried couples and should be reviewed on a regular basis.
Along with property and assets, you will also have to consider Health Care Directives. Due to the fact that you and your partner are not married, you partner would not have the legal right to make any type of health care decisions for you if you were incapacitated. The only way to avoid this is to ensure that you have a Medical Power of Attorney that names your partner as your health care agent.
An estate plan is important for everyone, but it is extremely important for unmarried couples. A qualified estate planning attorney can help you design a plan that is right for your situation.
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