When you’re in a romantic partnership – as opposed to a marriage – you need to create the legal protections and benefits automatically afforded to those who are married. For example, married persons legally inherit from each automatically and can visit their spouses in the hospital without question. You and your partner can do the same, but only if you have the legal documents that create those rights.
Estate Planning is Your Legal Instruction Book
If you met with your estate planning team today, you’d likely say, “Yes, of course, I want my partner to have the house if I die” and “Yes, I want my partner to make healthcare decisions for me if I cannot make those decisions myself.”
It is important to transform your wishes into legal documents. The easiest way to make sense of estate planning documents is to think of them as an instruction book.
Your Estate Planning Avoids the State Default Plan
In a way, everyone has an estate plan. For those who haven’t created an estate plan themselves, the state has a default plan – and it’s not what you would likely want. For example, assets you own in your individual name go through the probate court process and are given to your closest legally recognized family members. An unmarried partner is not a legally recognized relationship, meaning your partner will not receive any of those assets – or be on a list of folks who can make healthcare decisions on your behalf.
Continue This Conversation
Sit down with your estate planning team to talk through your goals, assets, and family situation. Be sure to discuss who is best suited to help you with medical and financial decisions if you cannot make those decisions yourself. And, of course, begin thinking through guardians for minor children, avoiding probate, minimizing taxes and fees, creating a legacy, and protecting you and your loved ones.