Today, it is common for couples, including those with children, to live together without getting married. If you are unmarried and living with a long-term partner, you should be aware of the importance of estate planning in both of your lives. In fact, planning for the future may be even more critical for couples who are not joined legally by marriage vows.
The best way to safeguard the inheritance rights and financial security for you and your children is to work with an experienced estate planning attorney. If you reside in Southeastern Massachusetts, Surprenant & Beneski, P.C. is a wise choice.
Unmarried Partners Don’t Have the Automatic Rights of Married Couples
In Massachusetts, as throughout the country, unmarried partners do not have the automatic rights to inherit or to split assets that married couples do, though they do have the same responsibility to provide for their children.
If you want to protect your unmarried partner from insecurity when it comes to legal, financial, and healthcare matters, you must work with a knowledgeable attorney to create and execute the following documents:
- Last Will and Testament to name your partner as your heir since otherwise the law will not recognize them as your legal heir. Also, if you die without a will (intestate), state laws of intestate succession will distribute your assets only according to your bloodline.
- Durable Power of Attorney to give your partner the power to make legal and financial decisions for you if you become incapacitated.
- Health Care Proxy to provide your partner with the authority to make healthcare decisions for you if you become unable to communicate your wishes. Without this document, your partner may have to yield authority over your health matters to your blood relatives.
- HIPAA Release Form to authorize healthcare providers tending you to provide your partner with the ability to access your private medical information. Without this document, this power may be usurped by your parent or sibling.
Directing Asset Distribution by Naming Beneficiaries
Another important step is making sure your partner’s name appears as a beneficiary on your life insurance policies and retirement accounts as well as on bank accounts that you two do not share jointly. This enables your partner to receive the assets you intend if anything untoward happens to you. By filling out or updating your beneficiary information properly, you can ensure that your partner will receive the proceeds of your account directly, avoiding Massachusetts probate.
How Trusts Can Protect You and Your Partner
Establishing trusts can serve several purposes, including protecting your assets and your privacy as an unmarried couple. Our attorneys can help you set up a revocable living trust to maintain control over your assets while avoiding probate and/or an irrevocable life insurance trust to exclude policy proceeds from your estate and potentially save you money on taxes.
Contact Our Experienced Long-Term Partnership Planning Attorneys Today
Familiar with the similarities and differences in various family structures, our estate planning attorneys are well-versed in the issues facing long-term partners who remain unmarried. Contact us now to discuss how we can be most helpful to you and the person you love most.