Naperville Estate Planning Lawyer Discusses Special Estate Planning Concerns Unmarried Couples Should Keep in Mind
For a variety of reasons, more and more adults are choosing not to get married. Approximately 18 million unmarried Americans were cohabitating in 2016 and that number is expected to continue to rise. If you and your partner are unmarried, you may wonder how this will affect your estate plans. Because the law does not recognize cohabitation the way it does marriage, it is crucial for unmarried couples to create an estate plan that dictates their wishes regarding property, healthcare decisions, and other concerns. There are special estate planning challenges that unmarried couples will face, so the sooner you begin the process of creating your will, trust, powers of attorney, and other estate planning documents, the better.
Your Partner Could Receive Nothing if Illinois Intestacy Laws Dictate Inheritance
If an Illinois resident passes away without a will, Illinois intestacy laws determine how his or her property is distributed after he or she passes away. When a person dies intestate, meaning without a will, any surviving spouse will inherit the estate. If the deceased person had children and a spouse, the estate is split between the spouse and the children. If the deceased person had no spouse, their estate is distributed to any living descendants including children and grandchildren, or if there are no descendants, other living family members. Even if you have lived with your current partner for many years and have built a life together, your partner may not inherit anything when you pass away if you do not have a valid estate plan. Through a will, you will be able to assign property to your partner even if you are not married to him or her.
Take Steps to Ensure Your Partner Can Make Healthcare Decisions on Your Behalf
Although it is a difficult subject to consider, many people become incapacitated through illness or injury before they pass away. If you become incapacitated and are unable to speak for yourself, you probably want your partner to be the person who speaks on your behalf. In order to ensure that your partner will have access to your medical information and the ability to make decisions about the medical treatments you receive, you will need to take several steps. First, both you and your partner should sign a HIPPA release so that medical facilities will disclose each person’s medical information to the other. Next, each of you should set up a healthcare power of attorney and a living will. It may also be a good idea to establish your partner as your financial power of attorney so that he or she can legally manage your finances if you become incapacitated.
Designate Your Partner as Beneficiary on Retirement Accounts
Similar to dying intestate, there are default rules that designate how assets like life insurance, 401(k) plans, and other retirement accounts are managed after a person dies. If you have not designated your partner as your beneficiary on these accounts, the funds left in these accounts will most likely be transferred to surviving family members. Therefore, it is important to contact the institutions that hold your accounts to find out how to name your partner as your beneficiary. If you ever need to change your beneficiary designation in the future, you will be able to do so.
Contact a Naperville Powers of Attorney Lawyer
To learn more about your estate planning options as an unmarried couple, contact a skilled DuPage County estate planning attorney at the Gierach Law Firm. Call our office at 630-756-1160 for a confidential consultation. We will provide the guidance you need and the top-quality service you deserve.