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Estate Planning Tips for Unmarried Partners

Barry E. Haimo, Esq.
June 13, 2019

Estate Planning

Estate Planning Tips for Unmarried Partners

When life partners decide not to tie the knot right away – or ever – they limit their ability to enjoy every financial advantage that comes with being wed. Essentially, the law doesn’t recognize your commitments the same way it does when you marry, and that can sometimes have serious consequences.

In today’s post we look at both scenarios – not tying that knot yet and ever – and some estate planning tips for each.

You Need a Plan – Probably More Than Married Couples

Whether you execute a will or set up some kind of trust, when marriage decidedly isn’t your current path, without an explicit plan for your estate, neither of you has any right to contribute to your partner’s end-of-life medical care or a legal claim to anything within your estate upon the other’s death.

With no will, state law dictates when and where personal property goes after someone’s death – and it definitely won’t be to an unmarried partner. Under Florida’s intestate succession statute, property not bequest to specific individuals goes to your closest relatives in this general order: spouse, then children, then parents, then siblings. This isn’t California, so an unmarried partner is treated legally as a stranger.

Because of this, you’ve got to put big-ticket items in both of your names. Designate each other as beneficiaries on your insurance policies and bank and investment accounts. Create durable powers of attorney so you can step in on end-of-life decisions. Consider using one or more trusts.

Last, if you have children together, it is especially important that you name one another as legal guardian so that if one of you dies, the other parent (biological or not) gains custody. Otherwise, you leave the decision up to the court, which will likely choose next of kin.  

Considering a “Prenup”

For those who do intend to marry – just not yet – there’s still time to consider a premarital agreement. Many shy away from the thought, believing it “taints” the love or “dooms” a marriage by thinking about the possibility of it not working out. However, there are actually many valid concerns this kind of agreement may address.

Under Florida’s Uniform Premarital Agreement Act, a “prenup” is simply an agreement regarding the rights and obligations to and for assets acquired prior to or during a marriage in the invent you decide to part ways.

When developed together it can make an otherwise painful division easier, and actually lead to a healthier and stronger relationship after a divorce. A prenuptial agreement is only valid when both parties willingly enter into and sign the contract, and end up legally marrying. It can only be revoked or abandoned by an additional written agreement, as well.  

This agreement is only the first step in planning your estate together. Your attorney can review your premarital assets and talk with you about how you see your estate growing over the life of your relationship in order to provide further guidance as you grow your empire together.

So, regardless of whether you and yours intend to live out your days in a modern or traditional way, planning ahead will get you where you need to be.

Author:
Barry E. Haimo, Esq.
Haimo Law
Strategic Planning With Purpose®
Email: barry@haimolaw.com 
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