Many couples across the country enjoy long lives together without ever getting married. When so many marriages end in divorce, increasing numbers of people are electing to forgo saying “I do” if marriage isn’t for them. However, when it comes to estate planning, being married to your partner offers several advantages. Compared to their unmarried counterparts, surviving spouses have less to worry about in terms of tax liability, asset transfer, and receiving survivor benefits.
While common law marriages exist in some states, Illinois requires a couple to go through a formal process to enjoy the legal benefits of marriage. If you and your partner have not tied the knot, you should think particularly carefully about your estate plans. Failing to do so can put you at risk of a legal nightmare when one of you passes away. Here are five reasons unmarried partners need thoroughly considered estate plans.
To Ensure Your Assets Pass to Your Partner
If a couple is married, the surviving spouse automatically inherits all marital property. Because they’re married, the survivor will retain everything the partners acquired during their marriage. However, unmarried couples do not enjoy the same protections since state law does not recognize their unions. Your partner will not have any automatic rights to inherit your property if you die.
Creating a last will and testament can ensure that your assets pass to your partner as you intend. If you fail to make provisions for your partner, your property will go to those whom the state deems to be your next of kin.
To Assign Power of Attorney
Unmarried couples are not eligible to make financial or medical decisions for each other in the event that either of them becomes incapacitated. This limitation can make crises feel even more overwhelming. Designating your partner as your agent in your financial and healthcare power of attorney can ensure that the person you trust most can make critical choices when you cannot do so yourself.
To Designate Account Beneficiaries
Your will does not control the distribution of certain accounts with named beneficiaries. Such accounts may include insurance policies, investment accounts, and retirement funds. When you die, these accounts will pass to the beneficiaries you have named. Part of your estate planning process should include updating the beneficiary designation for these accounts so your partner can inherit these funds.
To Plan for Your Children
Unmarried partners with children should be particularly conscious about how they plan their estates, especially if only one of you is their biological parent. Some couples in this situation believe they have nothing to worry about because the non-biological parent has legally adopted the children. However, you should speak to an experienced Illinois estate planning attorney to ensure that you fully understand the implications for your parental rights if either partner dies.
To Protect Your Home
Many unmarried partners own homes together. If this is the case for you, a well-considered estate plan will involve creating a document that clearly outlines:
- How your home is owned
- The amount of money each of you contributed to the home
- How you manage mortgage payments and taxes
- The division of the home if it is sold
- Who will continue living in the home if the relationship ends, if one of you dies, or if one of you becomes disabled
Consult with an experienced estate planning attorney to ensure that you have the necessary protections in place for your partner if the home is solely in your name. Otherwise, they may not have the legal right to continue living there if you die before they do.
Contact an Experienced Chicago Estate Planning Attorney Today
Estate planning is often a complicated process. Even married couples encounter difficulties they would never have imagined until they finally sit down to put their plans in place. If you and your partner are unmarried, hiring a knowledgeable and skilled estate planning attorney can be one of the most important decisions you make.
At Peck Ritchey, LLC, our Chicago litigation attorneys are committed to helping our clients understand everything they need to know to protect their loved ones if anything should happen. We have proven experience in effectively helping people take control of their assets and minimize future complications when it comes time to plan for their eventual demise.
The best time to plan your estate is now. Call us today at (855) 328-5787 or contact us online for a free consultation to learn more about how we can help you.