For individuals of all ages and familial structures, it is important to have a comprehensive Houston estate plan for two reasons. First, it provides instructions regarding the distribution of someone’s hard-earned assets, ensuring that their property is distributed according to their desires. Second, an estate plan provides end-of-life instructions that can help ensure an individual’s last days can be spent peacefully. While an estate plans should be a priority for any individual or family, an estate plan is even more critical for those in long-term relationships with someone whom they are not married to.
For unmarried couples, if one partner dies without an estate plan the results can be disastrous. State law assumes and protects the interests of married partners by ensuring them part of the estate through communal property. Married partners also have the presumed right to make medical and other important decisions on behalf of their significant other. Unmarried couples on the other hand do not have the same sort of protection. If one partner dies or becomes incapacitated, the other partner can only inherit from their estate or make important decisions on their behalf if careful estate planning has not already taken place. Below is a list of estate planning tools that are useful for unmarried couples who want to protect and provide for one another.
The bedrock of any estate plan, wills are used to distribute property upon the owner’s death. In the case of unmarried couples, it can be used to pass one partner’s property to the other. Those who are still legally married but separated from their spouse must exercise caution. Much of what they own may be shared with their legal spouse, to whom that property will automatically pass if they die.
2. Joint Ownership
Another way for unmarried couples to ensure that their property passes to their partner is through joint ownership of property. Property owned by one partner can be transferred into the name of both partners. This will ensure that a partner will be guaranteed a share of the other’s estate.
3. Beneficiary Designations
Many people often forget to review and update the named beneficiaries on life insurance policies and financial accounts. However, this is one incredibly effective and reliable way to provide for a loved one after passing away because it transfers property directly to the beneficiary without the need for probate. Unmarried couples should make sure to update their beneficiaries and utilize such accounts to ensure that the needs of their loved ones will be met after they are gone.
4. Financial and Medical Power of Attorney
When it comes to designating decision-making authority, a document naming a power of attorney is crucial for unmarried couples. Without a healthcare power of attorney, the right to make decisions will be left to the next of kin instead of the individual’s partner. Similarly, an unmarried person will have no ability to direct the finances for their incapacitated partner unless they have been named the financial power of attorney. Therefore, it is critical for unwed couples to execute powers of attorney in both contexts if they want their partner to be the one to make such decisions on their behalf.
Are You In Need of a Houston Estate Plan to Protect Your Significant Other?
If you are looking for an experienced Houston estate planning attorney, McCulloch & Miller, PLLC is here to help. The attorneys at McCulloch & Miller, have years of experience putting together comprehensive estate plans that address the specific needs of our clients. Call us today at 713-333-8900 to schedule a consultation, and learn how we can help you protect your loved ones as well as your hard-earned assets.