Estate planning provides substantial benefits for many individuals, including married couples, individuals, and those with children. Unmarried couples have a significant reason to create a comprehensive estate plan due to having fewer property and legal rights afforded to them. To create an estate plan that addresses the unique requirements of your and your family’s well-being, it is important to talk with a Springfield estate planning attorney.
Spouses have certain legal inheritance rights if their partner passes. An estate plan can make this inheritance better reflect an individual’s wishes, saving their spouse time, stress, and money. Unmarried couples do not have any legal inheritance rights, making the creation of a comprehensive estate plan even more important. It’s critical to consider the unique legal challenges of being an unmarried couple, and setting up an estate plan can help protect yourself and your family.
Legal Complications Without Marriage
There are numerous reasons why a couple may not want to get married, regardless of the strength and commitment of their relationship. However, these couples should be aware of the rights they do and do not have so that they know how to address those issues. Some legal complications for unmarried couples include:
- Property Rights: Unmarried couples do not have any marital property, so they have no inheritance rights to each other’s property. If one partner dies, the other partner cannot inherit through intestate succession law. For some couples, this separation of personal property is why they remain unmarried, but it’s important to protect your loved one’s ability to inherit. A married partner would receive the entire estate, or a portion of it, with the rest going to their children. Unmarried couples must take additional steps to establish these rights through a will or trust.
- Notice of Probate: A married partner is notified of probate proceedings for their deceased spouse, while an unmarried partner does not have this automatic right. A comprehensive estate plan can provide this right or keep the estate from entering probate.
- Benefits: Without naming a partner as a beneficiary, an unmarried partner has no right to government, pension, insurance, or other benefits after losing their partner.
- Medical Rights: Married couples are informed when a spouse is in an accident and receiving medical care. They have the right to visit their spouse in the hospital, make medical decisions, and pay hospital bills. Unmarried couples must establish the rights and abilities to care for each other and make medical or financial decisions for each other if one becomes incapacitated.
Estate Planning Solutions for Unmarried Couples
Although these rights are not automatic, like they are for married couples, unmarried couples can still establish these rights. A comprehensive estate plan, created together or separately, can address these important rights to protect your own well-being and the safety and security of your family.
A comprehensive estate plan can help unmarried couples secure some of the following documents:
- A will. This can give your partner the right to inherit specific assets in your estate or the entire estate, depending on your wishes. It can also establish them as a guardian for your minor children.
- Trusts. A trust avoids probate, which is an expensive and lengthy process. It enables you to pass assets to your partner and other beneficiaries through a trustee and outside of court. Partners can also establish a joint trust.
- Powers of attorney. Durable and medical powers of attorney are incredibly important documents for unmarried couples. These documents enable you to give a trusted individual, such as a partner, the legal authority to make medical and financial decisions for you when you are unable to.
- Medical directives. These list your wishes for medical care, providing your partner with instructions and guidelines as your medical power of attorney.
- Beneficiary designations. Individual accounts that have beneficiary designations can be left to your partner.
When creating a comprehensive estate plan, it is important that it is legally enforceable, or the time and effort you are putting into its creation is unhelpful, and your partner will still not have those essential rights. An attorney can help you draft an enforceable estate plan to meet your needs.
Q: Do Unmarried Couples Have Rights in Missouri?
A: Unmarried couples, if they have a child together and establish paternity, have equal parental rights and responsibilities to child custody and support as married couples. However, unmarried couples do not have the same property rights as married couples. If a couple separates, the state has no jurisdiction over the separation of property, as no property is considered marital property unless other legal steps are taken. Missouri does not recognize common law marriages as a legally valid marriage.
Q: Is Estate Planning Less Important for Unmarried Couples?
A: No, estate planning is more important for unmarried couples who wish for their loved ones to inherit or have essential legal powers. If a married individual dies, their spouse will inherit a portion or all of the estate through succession laws if the individual had no will or estate plan.
Unmarried couples do not have these rights. If an unmarried individual dies without a will, their estate passes to any children, parents, or siblings, but it does not pass to their partner.
Q: Can I Leave My Estate to My Girlfriend?
A: With an estate plan, you can leave your estate and its assets to whoever you want. A will enables you to name whom you wish to inherit from you and list a guardian for any minor children you have. By using trusts within the estate plan, you can further legitimize the information listed in your will and help your loved ones avoid probate court. Without a will or an estate plan, your partner, if you are not married to them, cannot inherit your estate.
Q: Can I Buy a House With My Boyfriend Without Being Married?
A: Yes, you can buy a house when you are not married. It can add some complications, but it is possible. It’s important to title the home based on whether you wish a surviving partner to inherit the home, such as using joint tenancy with survivorship rights.
It’s also important to consider how the home may be divided if you separate, as the state has no say in how to divide separate property. If you are unmarried, the home will not be considered marital property. It can be helpful to talk with an attorney before making these important decisions.
Protect Your Family’s Rights and Future
Contact Stange Law Firm to see how we can help you establish important rights and protections through an estate plan.