Estate planning can be a daunting task for married couples, so you can imagine how challenging it can be for unmarried couples. There are a few difference between the two, like how unmarried partners usually do not leave something to their partner in the event that they pass and how married couples are not legally allowed to cut their spouses out of their estate plan without leaving some form of inheritance. An estate plan created for a single individual is allowed to list an unmarried partner as their beneficiary of their estate in addition to their siblings and parents (or any other blood relative). In certain cases where unmarried couples are creating their estate plans together, their plans will not affect the disposition of their jointly-owned accounts and property. This is due to laws regarding assets that are held in joint tenancy. They must be passed to the other account holder in the event that one dies. This type of thing can quickly complicate things because a couple who is not married but jointly owns assets like a married couple does not have to follow the same rules.
For obvious reasons, a couple who is not married needs to seek separate advice so that they can decide what is best for their individual self in the long run. Each partner should contact a separate estate planning attorney so that they can begin to figure out what they individually want to include in their separate (or joint) estate plan(s). Something that all unmarried couples should consider before making an estate plan is that setting up beneficiaries on a joint estate plan can be a huge mistake. This is because if couples were to list each other as beneficiaries for life insurance and broke up, they may forget to change their beneficiaries. And if the beneficiaries are not changed, that forgotten ex-girlfriend could wind up inheriting a windfall just from being named as your beneficiary on your bank account or even your insurance policy. Many states have laws surrounding beneficiary designations and consider them to be almost like a contract where failure to stay together has literally no impact on beneficiary designation changing. Both partners should think long and hard about how financially stable and healthy their partner is before listing them as their (financial) power of attorney in the event that they become incapacitated. Estate planning is almost like a necessity for married couples, but for unmarried couples, estate planning should be mulled over before any irrational decision is made.
If you have questions, be sure to reach out to an estate attorney O’Fallon MO recommends.
Thanks to our friends and contributors from Legacy Law Center for their insight into estate planning.