3 Important Estate Planning Issues Every Unmarried Couple Should Consider
More and more couples are choosing to share their lives together without being legally married. There are many different reasons that a couple may decide not to get married. Some may feel like marriage is an outdated concept while others cite divorce fears as the reason for not tying the knot. Other couples simply do not believe that they need a marriage certificate to validate their relationship. Whatever your reason, if you are in a committed but unmarried relationship, there are several estate planning concerns you should be aware of.
Your Significant Other Will Not Automatically Have Inheritance Rights
The laws which govern inheritance when no will or other estate planning tool is in place are called “intestacy laws.” According to Illinois intestacy laws, if a married person with no children dies without a will, his or her property is passed to his or her spouse. If the person has children, the estate is split between the surviving spouse and the decedent’s children. However, if a person has no legal spouse and passes away without an estate plan, his or her assets are passed on to the person’s children or other living descendants. If you want your partner to inherit any of your property when you die, you must specify this in your estate plan.
Have you ever considered what types of medical intervention you would and would not want if you became gravely ill? For example, if an accident left you in a vegetative state, would you want to be kept alive through artificial ventilation or other means? These types of questions are very uncomfortable to consider but they are also very important, especially if you are in a long-term but unmarried relationship.
If you want your partner to be able to make medical decisions on your behalf should you become incapacitated, you will need to take several steps. First, you will need to sign a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) release so that doctors will be authorized to share medical information with your partner. If you want your partner to be authorized to make medical decisions on your behalf, you need to identify him or her as your healthcare power of attorney. You may also want to specify your healthcare wishes through a living will, as well
Select Your Partner as a Beneficiary on Retirement Accounts
If no action is taken to specify otherwise, the beneficiaries of retirement accounts are determined by state laws. If you want your partner to receive benefits from your life insurance, 401(k), or other retirement account, you will need to add him or her as a beneficiary on these accounts. If you do not do so, these benefits may be passed on to blood relatives upon your death. Contact the companies that manage your accounts and ask how you can add your partner as a beneficiary. If you and your partner later break up, you can always change these beneficiary designations.
Contact a Naperville Estate Planning Lawyer
To learn more about estate planning concerns unique to unmarried couples, contact an experienced DuPage County estate planning attorney from the Gierach Law Firm. Call us at 630-756-1160 today and schedule a confidential consultation to discuss your needs.