Although estate planning is important for everyone, it is particularly valuable for unmarried partners. With the right estate planning tools, you can help ensure that your partner can make important decisions for you if you become incapacitated and/or inherit money and property if you pass away.
Your estate planning tool kit will consist of 7 important documents, including:
- A last will and testament
- A revocable living trust (RLT)
- A pour-over will
- Financial power of attorney
- Medical power of attorney
- Advance health care directive(s)
- A HIPPA authorization form
At Legacy Law Centers, we can help you with all of the above documents, and we will go into more detail about each of them below:
Name Your Partner in Your Last Will and Testament
When you create a last will and testament, usually referred to simply as a will, you can leave money and property to anyone you choose. If you are in a long-term committed relationship, you may wish to leave money and property to your partner. To do so, simply name your partner as a beneficiary in your will.
Keep in mind that your will is the foundation of your estate plan. While your will should help your partner inherit after you die, your loved ones may still have to go through probate, or the official proving of a will.
If you leave all your property to your partner, your family members may contest your will, which could put your final wishes at risk. Even if your will is executed as planned, your partner could experience long, painful court proceedings and delays.
Create a Revocable Living Trust (RLT)
Another way to leave money and property to your partner is with a revocable living trust (RLT). This arrangement allows another party, called the trustee, to handle your assets (and distribute them to your beneficiaries) in the event of your death or incapacitation. You can appoint yourself as trustee while you are alive and well – and designate a co-trustee or alternate trustee who will take over if you get hurt, become ill, or cannot act as the trustee for any other reason.
Some couples name each other as co-trustees and manage their trusts together, but other individuals name their partners as alternate trustees, so one partner can manage the trust when the other cannot. You can also plan beyond your partner’s lifetime and leave funds to future generations. Because trusts are “living” and active, there is usually little question about where assets should go, and your loved ones can avoid probate for many years.
Avoid Probate with a Pour-Over Will
Another document that can help your loved ones avoid probate is a pour-over will. This unique legal document lists your RLT as the beneficiary. Sometimes, people overlook property when creating their trust, or executors find additional resources that must go through probate.
A pour-over will helps ensure that all your money and property makes it into your RLT, so whoever you name in your trust inherits the resources you leave behind.
Establish Power of Attorney
If you become unable to make decisions about your money or health care, someone else will have to step in. By establishing power of attorney, you can leave these decisions to your partner.
Financial Power of Attorney
Giving your partner financial power of attorney will allow them to handle your financial matters for you. You can give your partner as much access to your finances as you feel comfortable with. For example, you can give your partner permission to use your bank accounts to pay your bills and medical expenses, or you can give them full access to your account.
Further, you can decide when someone gains power of attorney. Should your partner step in immediately or prove that you are incapacitated first?
If you do not establish financial power attorney, your partner may have to go to court, and the judge might give a blood relative power over your finances instead.
Medical Power of Attorney
Establishing medical power of attorney is important because it gives your partner access to your doctor and allows them to communicate your wishes or make health care decisions when you cannot. Once again, if you do not give your partner medical power of attorney, the judge may have to appoint a blood relative to make your health care decisions instead.
Write an Advance Directive
Another way you can make medical decisions is with an advance directive. With an advance health care directive, you can make some decisions regarding the end of your life. For instance, if you do not wish to be placed on life support, you should communicate this in an advance directive.
Even if you have told your partner about your wishes and given them medical power of attorney, an advance directive can save your partner from the difficulty of making such an important decision for you.
Your written wishes can also resolve any disputes your loved ones may have about how to best care for you.
Complete a HIPPA Release Form
Signing a HIPPA privacy authorization form will let your partner access your medical information. If you get into a car accident, for example, your doctor will be able to tell your partner about your condition and share test results. This way, your partner will have all the information they need to make the right decision on your behalf.
Even in emergencies that don’t lead to death or incapacitation, having all the information can give your partner peace of mind as you recover.
Plan to Protect Your Partner Today
No one wants to think about the end of their life but planning for all parts of the future can help you protect your partner from unnecessary grief during an already difficult time.
As such, you and your partner should start building your estate planning toolkit today. Our firm is focused on estate planning and understands the importance of your special bond. We are here to help you protect it.