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What Legal Protections Should Unmarried Couples Consider When Estate Planning?

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When is Estate Planning Necessary?

Almost everyone can benefit immensely from having an estate plan, regardless of the assets that you may have. There is a wide array of tools and resources available within estate planning, and nearly everyone can find an appropriate tool and customize a strategy with their estate planning attorney to ensure they and their families are protected and planned for.

Though some of us may have a hard time facing our mortality and planning for it, doing so can be one of the most important and caring things you can do to provide for and protect those you love.

Do Unmarried Couples Need Estate Planning?

Whether married or not, all couples can find valuable resources in estate planning. It may surprise you to realize that unmarried couples, even if they share children, have limited legal rights to their partner’s assets, to make crucial decisions on their behalf, and more should something happen to their partner.

A will is one of the most basic and standard tools to help avoid this issue. Creating a will can ensure that specific people will benefit from any assets you choose to transfer to them, rather than them ending up in someone’s hands that you may not have chosen.

The process also ensures that your loved ones won’t have to endure part of the probate process, which is a court process that essentially handles your estate for you should you pass away without a will or other estate planning tools in place.

Creating a will also allows you to designate who should be in charge of the care for any minor children should something happen to you, designate a person to oversee your estate, and more.

If you choose to transfer assets to your significant other, creating a will and stipulating this can ensure they will have access to those assets after your passing rather than your family.

Power of Attorney (POA)

Another important aspect to consider for unmarried couples (and everyone) is Power of Attorney. In South Carolina, we have several options for Power of Attorney designations, but some of the most common ones are a financial POA and a health care POA.

When legally married, some of the critical questions that arise regarding health care or financial decisions for each other are directed to the spouse. When the couple is unmarried, these same important questions may or may not be handled by those we are closest to.

Having a financial and health care POA in place with our significant other or another trusted person listed can ensure that our most important needs and wishes can be carried out as we see fit should we become incapacitated.

Common examples of important decisions that may arise are which life-saving measures we wish to take advantage of, accessing financial accounts, paying taxes on our behalf, and more, which can arise should something unexpected occur. Having your significant other legally able to handle these essential affairs for you can be invaluable.

Benefits of Having a Trust

Setting up a trust is an invaluable resource that nearly everyone can benefit from in terms of protecting our assets and offering some tax benefits. Unmarried couples can take comfort in knowing that when they set up a trust, they can ensure their partner has legal rights to the assets within.

There are several trusts to choose from, offering benefits for nearly any situation. It’s important to note that by setting up a trust, your partner can benefit from the assets while they are alive, and the remaining assets can be transferred to the intended heirs of both partners when they pass away.

Another aspect to consider is the protection that a trust can offer your partner. For example, if your partner gets in a car accident and the other party pursues compensation, assets within the trust are typically safe from lawsuits.

Finally, assets held within the trust can bypass the probate process, which means a prompt transfer of funds or other assets to your partner when you pass away rather than having to wait until probate is finalized. Creating a trust also ensures that past spouses or other family members can’t fight over the assets within the trust.

Other Aspects to Consider

Other aspects to consider for unmarried couples are life insurance policies, retirement accounts, bank accounts, and more. Make sure that your partner is listed as the beneficiary on any life insurance policies or retirement accounts so the funds will transfer to them upon your death.

Look into adding a Transfer on Death or TOD to bank accounts, vehicles, and more so those assets can also be transferred to your partner promptly.

Protect Those You Love the Most

A comprehensive estate plan can allow anyone to find peace and comfort knowing they have planned for the unknown to the best of their ability. You can ensure that your legacy is protected, your loved ones are cared for and planned for, and more by utilizing several estate planning resources.

With over 25 years of experience in helping our clients and their loved ones with their estate planning needs, we are confident that we can customize a solution that speaks to your precise needs and ensures that you have a strong strategy you can rely on when you need it the most.

Contact our office at 864-689-4482 to schedule your strategy session today. We work with clients of all backgrounds and need levels to ensure they have a plan in place that allows them peace of mind and security.

We look forward to serving you.

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