Important Information for Unmarried Couples from a Naperville Estate Planning Lawyer

unmarried couples, Naperville estate planning attorneyIf you were to die tomorrow, do you know what would happen to your assets and property? What about your children? Have you directed a trusted family member or loved one to care for them in the event that something happens to you?

As an experienced estate planning lawyer, I know that some estimates say that some 60 percent of American adults have no formal estate plan in place. This is a troubling number, to say the least, but the situation can be even more serious for those who are in a long-term, unmarried relationship with a significant other.

Intestate Succession Basics

Most married people operate under the assumption that if they die with a will or other estate planning tools in place, their assets and debts will transfer to their spouse. According to Illinois law regarding intestate succession, such an assumption is partially true. If a person is survived by his or her spouse, the spouse will inherit at least half of the decedent’s estate and potentially more, depending on whether or not the couple has children. While the process of intestate succession is not terribly efficient—since it is handled during probate—a surviving spouse will eventually receive a substantial portion of the estate.

The same cannot be said for an unmarried partner. Under Illinois law, a dating relationship does not create any legal relationship between the parties regardless of how long they two have been together. Common law marriage does not exist in Illinois, and the laws of intestate succession ignore an unmarried significant other altogether.

Growing Numbers

Over the last several decades, more and more couples are deciding to put marriage on hold—often indefinitely—but are moving in together nonetheless. Estimates from the Pew Research Center suggest that about half of cohabiting couples are under the age of 35, but roughly a quarter are aged 50 and over.

Many older individuals in cohabiting arrangements have already been through a marriage and divorce at least once, and it is understandable that they might be hesitant to do it again. At that stage of life, however, estate planning is all the more important.

Customized Estate Plans for Unmarried Couples

If you are in an unmarried, cohabiting relationship, it is relatively easy to protect your partner, but it will require some effort. By taking the time to develop a comprehensive estate plan, you can choose your partner—regardless of your marital status—as your primary heir or beneficiary, as well as a trustee for any established trusts. You can also name him or her as your power of attorney for health care or property so that he or she can make decisions on your behalf when necessary. Your partner can even be designated as a guardian for your children.

Estate planning, at its most basic, is designed to eliminate uncertainty in the future. At The Gierach Law Firm, we take pride in helping families of all types find the security and peace of mind they deserve. To learn more about our firm and how we can assist you, contact one of our experienced Naperville estate planning attorneys. Call 630-756-1160 for a confidential consultation today.





Huffington Post

Pew Research Center