December 7, 2017
Some couples choose to live together and act as a married couple without ever officially tying the knot. Sometimes this is a calculated decision, while other times the couple just doesn’t particularly care about making their marriage official. Whatever the reasons, it’s important to understand that unmarried partners are treated differently under the law than married couples, so estate planning is critical for making sure each partner is cared for.
How the Law Treats Unmarried Partners
Many laws give special treatment to married couples, with no similar treatment for unmarried couples. For example, if you pass away without a valid will, your property will typically go to your spouse and children under North Carolina’s intestacy laws. If you aren’t officially married, your partner will likely end up with nothing if you don’t have a valid will.
Creating a simple will can ensure that your partner is protected after you’re gone. In other situations, more complex estate planning may be required. This is often the case when one or both partners have children from a previous relationship. Each partner may want to leave assets to their children while also making sure the other partner is cared for.
A trust agreement can be beneficial in these cases. For example, you can place your home in a trust and agree that your partner has the right to live on the property for their lifetime. When your partner passes, the property will revert to your children.
Unmarried Partners and Powers of Attorney
A power of attorney (POA) gives someone the legal right to make decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated. There are several types of POAs, and unmarried partners in particular should talk to an estate planning attorney about creating a healthcare POA and a durable POA.
If you become seriously injured and incapacitated, a healthcare POA authorizes someone else to make medical decisions on your behalf. When no POA exists, a doctor will typically consult with your spouse or next of kin, but if you are not married, your unmarried partner will not have any rights unless a healthcare POA is in place.
A durable POA allows your partner to make financial decisions while you are unable to do so. This includes paying bills, accessing your bank accounts, and making other decisions on your behalf.
Estate planning for unmarried partners allows you to make sure that each partner and all other parties are protected. Talk to an estate planning attorney to learn more about the unique legal issues faced by unmarried partners.
At King Law Office, we understand that every estate plan must be uniquely crafted. Our goal is to help guide you through this process and listen to your concerns. Come visit us at one of our 12 office locations, including Hendersonville, Shelby, and Concord.