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Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Estate Planning Considerations for Unmarried Couples

Estate planning, which is the legal structuring of the disposition of one's assets, is a process that all couples—both married and unmarried—should consider participating in. However, estate planning is especially important for unmarried couples, as unmarried couples are afforded far less legal protection than those couples who are married. Below are some things that unmarried couples should consider when approaching the estate planning process in Michigan.  

Things to Consider

Who gets the home?  – The family home is an important issue to address during the estate planning process, particularly for unmarried couples who want to leave it to their surviving children while protecting each other’s interests. One way to address this issue is to create a life estate for the surviving partner in the relationship. A life estate agreement makes sure that the surviving partner is permitted to remain in the family home until death or some other stated event.

Should you draft a will? – Each partner in an unmarried relationship should have a will in place. Without a valid will, the state makes decisions regarding who will inherit each partner's assets after death. Unfortunately, without a will, courts usually distribute assets to surviving blood relatives—with the surviving partner receiving nothing. Therefore, if the partners in an unmarried relationship wish to leave one another assets, it's important that wills be drafted as soon as possible.

What about health care? – Health care is an important issue, and it should be addressed during the estate planning process. Healthcare agreements commonly authorize medical providers to discuss each partner’s health conditions with the other. Without a healthcare agreement in place, health care providers are limited to discussing personal health information with a patient’s immediate family.

What is a domestic partnership agreement? – An additional consideration for unmarried couples is the use of a domestic partnership agreement. Domestic partnership agreements detail how unmarried couples share expenses, income, and property.

Who will take care of the kids? – Finally, issues such as child custody and child care are particularly important aspects of the estate planning process for unmarried couples. One way to address issues involving children is through each partner's will.  

Michigan Estate Planning Attorneys

Estate planning can be difficult, and it’s easy to overlook important steps when attempting to navigate the process alone. Therefore, we highly recommend that you consider contacting an experienced estate planning attorney to discuss your options. Establishing an estate plan is one of the most important steps you can take to protect yourself and your loved ones. Proper estate planning not only puts you in charge of your finances, but it can also significantly reduce the expense, delay, and frustration experienced by your loved ones upon your passing or incapacitation. If you’d like to begin the estate planning process, please contact one of our experienced Michigan attorneys for a consultation.

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