When people are living with a romantic partner but are not legally married, they often want to know what estate planning options they have. For people living together outside of marriage, it is vital to take steps now to protect both you and your partner. Today we are going to look at several of the issues that people who are living with someone outside of marriage need to consider.
Incapacitation When Living With Someone
One of the rights that married couples receive upon getting married is the right to make decisions on behalf of their spouses should those spouses become incapacitated or otherwise lose the ability to communicate or make choices. But that same right is not automatic when it comes to people who are living with someone outside of marriage.
For instance, let’s say that you and your partner have been together for decades. Both of you know what each of you wants when it comes to medical decisions, and both of you feel comfortable making those choices on behalf of the other should your partner become incapacitated. However, just because you understand what each other wants and are ready to make those choices, doesn’t mean you will have the legal authority to do so. In fact, you may be prevented from making these choices because you are not married to your partner.
Fortunately, you and your partner can choose to give each other legal decision-making authority by crafting one or more estate planning tools. These tools can include health care powers of attorney, durable powers of attorney for finances, and other devices that allow you to make decisions on behalf of your partner should that partner become incapacitated.
Inheritances When Living With Someone
Similar to incapacitation and decision-making rights, spouses earn the right to inherit from one another upon the other person’s death. Regardless of the inheritance choices their spouse makes, a surviving spouse will be entitled to receive at least a portion, if not the entirety, of a deceased spouse’s estate.
Once again, however, the same is not true for people living with someone outside of marriage. If you want your partner to receive an inheritance, you must craft an estate plan that specifically protects this wish. Should you fail to craft an estate plan, your partner will have no inheritance rights to your property after you die.