Why estate plans are important for unmarried couples
People in California who live together but are not married may want to consider creating estate plans. As part of an estate plan, each person can give the other permission to make medical decisions. Another reason for an estate plan is so that partners can inherit assets from one another. Without these protections in place, these rights will default to family members, and unmarried partners may have no say.
With a healthcare power of attorney, unmarried partners can give one another permission to make medical decisions. People should discuss their wishes with partners, including organ donation and end-of-life care. People should also make sure they co-own any major property, such as a home, or that there is an arrangement that allows one partner to inherit that property if the other dies. Arranging for assets to be distributed to a partner is important as well. This can be done through a will or trust. Some assets, such as retirement accounts, must be passed on using a beneficiary designation.
An attorney may be able to work with couples and assist them in creating estate plans. However, couples may want to begin by talking with one another about their plans. If they are comfortable with it, they might also include family and friends in these conversations.
An attorney may be able to explain a number of aspects of estate planning to a couple as well as options they might not be aware of. For example, couples may have children from previous relationships to whom they also want to leave assets, but they may be concerned that the children will not be responsible with the money. If this is the case, a trust can be set up to distribute assets to the children at certain intervals or at the discretion of a trustee.