Orange County Estate Planning Attorney Helping Unmarried Couples

When two people become serious, it’s reasonable to start planning for the future. It’s often easy to discuss goals relating to careers, finances, and personal fulfillment. It’s not always as easy to dive into what happens if one or both of the partners pass away.

While short conversations may come up from time to time, an actual plan between unmarried partners is rare, and meetings with an Orange County estate planning attorney are even more scarce.

Unmarried couples often wait until significant life events before taking their estate plans seriously. Sadly, waiting could mean creating a plan too late. Tragedy can strike at any time and it’s easy to push end-of-life plans back.

Estate Planning: What Unmarried Partners Should Consider

With the rising number of unmarried couples creating a life together, it’s critical that they meet with an estate planning lawyer in Orange County, CA to ensure they have the best plan moving forward.

Are estate plans even necessary?

An estate plan answers two vital questions:

  1. What happens to your assets after you die?
  2. Who takes care of you when you are no longer able to take care of yourself?

Whether you and your partner get married or not, your decisions about who takes over in these areas will most likely not change. Unmarried couples often have estate plans that are very similar to those plans created by married partners. The most significant difference is that there are no legal defaults that help an unmarried couple, so an estate plan plays a much more substantial role.

Our legal system already offers married couples several benefits: social security benefits, immigration status, the ability to file joint taxes, hospital visit rights, automatic inheritance, and more.

In most states, your spouse automatically gets your assets after your death. In states where this isn’t the case, a probate judge is almost certainly going to grant the surviving spouse ownership of their partner’s assets.

An unmarried couple isn’t offered the same advantages. If the estate plan isn’t set up correctly, your partner could be denied access to visit you in the hospital, make decisions about your end-of-life care, or get access to your social security or other benefits. A probate judge might also grant ownership of assets to another family member instead of you.

Unmarried couples need to meet with their Orange County estate planning lawyer to ensure their end-of-life care and assets are appropriately managed. They may need an estate plan even more than married couples do.

Read More: Why Do I Need to Hire a Lawyer to Write My Estate Plan?

Check Your Real Estate Titles

A typical estate plan contains a legal document that helps distribute your assets after you pass on. Real estate is a different story. If your partner isn’t on the title for your shared real estate, it could result in him or her losing out entirely. Even if your relationship is well-known and well-established, a court may be forced by strict laws to assign that property to someone else.

One of the best options for unmarried couples is to transfer property to a living trust. By naming your partner as the estate successor trustee, your partner can control the estate without risking an alternative decision by a probate judge.

Another option is to name your partner as a joint tenant. Joint tenancy is where multiple people own property. When one partner dies, the property passes to the surviving joint tenant.

While creating a trust sounds simple, it can be very complicated. Instead of taking the risk that things aren’t established correctly, you should work with an experienced estate planning attorney.

A single mistake could result in your final wishes being ignored or create additional problems for your loved ones. Working with a local estate planning lawyer is the best way to make sure your goals are met.

Read More: Requirements for Signing a Will in California

Consider Appointing an Attorney-in-Fact

One of the most essential documents in your estate plan is a durable power of attorney (POA). If you name your partner as your POA, you give him or her the legal ability to make decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so yourself.

Your end-of-life care is an integral part of your estate plan. You’ll want to make sure someone you trust is in charge of making healthcare decisions for you. Have the appropriate conversations with your partner, so he or she knows your wishes.

Create a Pay-On-Death Beneficiary

Almost all of your financial accounts allow you to name another as a pay-on-death beneficiary. This will enable funds to be transferred to a person of your choosing at the time of death. In many cases, making the transfer could be as easy as taking a copy of the death certificate to the bank.

While naming your partner as your pay-on-death beneficiary isn’t a perfect answer to your estate plan, it’s a start. Make sure to review your accounts, especially if they were created before you got together with your partner. These financial beneficiaries often get precedence over a will or trust.

Prepare a Letter of Intent

A letter of intent is an often-overlooked part of an estate plan. This letter is a document that lets your partner know everything he or she needs to manage your estate correctly. It’s not a legal document, but serves as instructions regarding your assets.

Your letter of intent could contain items like account numbers, passwords, PINs, debit accounts, and more. You can also include any wishes or desires you have for your funeral. This letter not only makes managing your estate easier for your partner, but can help over loved ones deal with your parting.

Talk to Your Family

Make sure you discuss your estate plans with your family. It’s crucial to let your family know that you are including your partner in your plan. If they don’t know your intentions, it could cause conflict down the road. That could mean fights, lawsuits, and other issues after your death. This is especially true if you and your partner have children.

Meet with Your Orange County Estate Planning Lawyer Today

Whether you plan on marrying your partner or you’re both exactly where you want to be, a proper estate plan should be a top priority. Failing to include your partner in your plan could have significant consequences. Instead of taking the risk that your assets won’t be distributed appropriately, meet with an estate planning attorney, and set up your plans the way that you want them.

Contact us today to speak with our experienced staff

Call 949.852.8121 or Schedule a Consultation

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