Estate Planning Considerations for Unmarried Couples
Increasingly, people are choosing to cohabitate without marrying. This is an especially attractive option for seniors who might already have been married and see no allure in the prospect of another trip down the aisle.
However, unmarried couples need to carefully create an estate plan, otherwise your partner could be left with few assets and no rights in the event of your death or incapacity. Fortunately, there are many ways to provide for a loved one without ever getting married, but you should start as soon as possible. Contact an estate planning lawyer in The Villages today for help.
Giving Your Partner a Say in Healthcare Decisions
Everyone has heard stories of unmarried partners denied hospital visits when a partner is incapacitated. Some of these stories are a little overblown, but the problem is a very real one. Being unmarried affords a partner few rights.
We encourage our clients to think about who should make healthcare decisions for them. Your unmarried partner will have no automatic right to have a say in the care you receive.
Fortunately, you can designate your partner as your health care surrogate. He or she can step in when you become incapacitated and decide the type of care you receive. We encourage all our clients to create this designation as soon as possible.
Empowering Your Partner to Make Financial Decisions
If you become incapacitated, someone needs to make financial decisions. We recommend drafting a durable power of attorney for financial matters. With this document, your partner can deposit checks and make other financial decisions when you are unable. Without this power, adult children could become entangled and make it hard for your partner to support him or herself.
Leaving Assets to Your Partner
Under Florida law, a spouse has a right to an elective share of your estate regardless of what your will says. Currently, the share is 30%. An unmarried partner has no right. Even worse, the estate of someone who dies without a will passes to their children or other relatives, not unmarried partners, so you need to include them in your estate plan.
We recommend the following:
- Updating an existing will or trust to provide for a partner. You can leave certain assets to them or give them a percentage of the estate.
- Naming your partner as the beneficiary of retirement accounts or life insurance. These assets pass outside probate. If you do not designate them as a beneficiary, they will not receive anything.
- Designating your partner as the beneficiary on certain Payable on Death accounts.
- Retitling real estate so that your partner is joint owner with a right of survivorship when you die.
Problems can arise when giving lifetime gifts to a partner, so this is rarely an attractive option. Under federal law, gifts to a spouse are tax-free, but the same is not true with an unmarried partner. If taxes are a concern, you should discuss your options with an estate planning lawyer in The Villages.
Call Us Today to Get Started
Millhorn Elder Law Planning Group stands ready to help our clients provide for a loved one. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation by calling us at 800-743-9732.