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Why Estate Planning is Critical for Unmarried Couples

 Posted on January 31, 2022 in Estate Planning Blog

b2ap3_thumbnail_shutterstock_1923186224.jpgMore and more modern couples are choosing not to marry. Each couple has their own reasons for making this decision. Some feel that they do not need “a piece of paper” to demonstrate their love and commitment. Others simply are not comfortable with the idea of marriage. However, there are certain legal protections that marriage offers in the event that one spouse becomes incapacitated or passes away. Spouses almost automatically inherit from each other in the absence of an estate plan, and will likely be called upon to make medical decisions for each other when necessary. Unmarried couples do not enjoy these protections. 

Fortunately, there are ways other than getting married for committed couples to protect each other. Through a little careful estate planning with the help of a qualified attorney, unmarried couples can set in place largely the same safety nets that married couples are granted. It will likely cost much less than a wedding. 

What Documents Should Committed but Unmarried Couples Have in Place?

It is important that couples who intend to stay together in a committed, long-term relationship address a few estate planning issues so that they will be well-prepared and protected in the event that one partner becomes incapacitated or passes away during the relationship. Some smart tactics these couples can use include: 

  • Joint assets - It may be a good idea for committed couples to keep their major assets in both of their names, so that when one passes away, the other will be entitled to retain ownership without a legal struggle. Assets you may consider holding jointly include common bank accounts, their home, investment assets, and even vehicles. 
  • Transfer-on-death - For those who are not quite prepared to transfer certain assets to joint ownership during their lifetimes, a transfer-on-death instrument can be used to leave some types of property, including real estate, to an unmarried partner with minimal hassle. 
  • Trust or will - Using either of these testamentary documents, you can leave money or other property to any beneficiary you name, regardless of marital status. Trusts are often preferred for their ability to bypass probate. 
  • Health care power of attorney - The importance of this document cannot be understated. In its absence, you would not be able to step in and make health care decisions on behalf of your partner should he become seriously ill or injured and unable to speak for himself. You and your partner probably understand each other’s wishes and beliefs about what types of medical treatment each other would and would not want in these difficult circumstances. Without a health care power of attorney, another relative, often a parent or adult child, would be appointed instead. 

Before you begin taking these measures, it is important to consult a lawyer who can make sure you are well-informed about all the risks and benefits while giving you a clear understanding of your options. Couples with children in common will need to take additional steps to protect their families. 

Speak With a DuPage County Estate Planning Lawyer

A. Traub & Associates is uniquely situated to assist unmarried couples who are seeking to protect one another through estate planning, because our firm also handles a range of family law services and can draw on our knowledge of both fields. Call 630-426-0196 to arrange a free consultation with one of our skilled Wheaton estate planning and family law attorneys. 








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