Marriage. It isn’t for everyone, and these days, more and more couples are opting to forego the marriage document, as there are now 15 million people living together, unmarried. At Grimaldi Law Firm, a leader in Florida Estate Planning Law, there is one thing that certainly is for everyone, and that’s protecting your future whether you believe in marriage or not.
Whatever your reasons are for not tying the knot, you cannot ignore the responsibility to still care for the loved ones you’ll one day leave behind.
Here are some tips and strategies for making the most of the estate planning process with your significant other when marriage just isn’t in the cards:
1. Retirement Plans
What happens to all that retirement money that you worked so hard to save throughout your lifetime? Once you’re no longer living, you’ll want to make sure it goes to your partner and will need the right paperwork to make that happen. You will likely need a beneficiary designation.
Think having a will is going to cover you? A beneficiary designation takes priority over any will. The same goes for life insurance policies, so make sure you update the beneficiary of those policies as well.
Also, consider your rollover/distribution options. In many cases companies discriminate against unmarried couples by forcing the non-spouse beneficiary to take a taxable lump-sum distribution of the entire amount.
2. Account and Property Titling
It doesn’t matter how long you’ve lived with your partner. If you’re unmarried and you survive your significant other, you are not guaranteed the right to keep or live in the home (especially if there are children from a previous marriage involved). Even if that property has been your home for years!
There a few ways to ensure you can stay put in your home should you survive your partner:
Tenants in Common or Other Joint Ownership: This allows ownership of a property by more than one person, regardless of their percentage of ownership. Not only does this allow you to be able to stay in the house upon the death of a partner, upon the sale of the property, each party receives their specific investment and share.
Trusts: A trust is a surefire way to guarantee legal protection of your property and monetary assets if you are in a domestic partnership. Just like in a marriage, a trust would be drawn up to delegate assets, properties, or any investments in the way you want. The trust will have a clear cut blueprint of the legalities of what would happen if the trustee (the owner of the trust) dies, becomes disabled or becomes unable to transact on their own behalf.
3. Will, Living Will, and Power of Attorney
These are critical documents for anyone, whether single, married, or in a domestic partnership.
Living Will and Health Care Surrogate Designation
A living will is a legal document that describes your end-of-life wishes and decisions. This is important to ensure that if there comes a time when you no longer can speak for yourself, that your wants and health care desires are still carried out in a way that suits you and by the person that you wish.
A will is the legal document that goes into detail about all your assets, and who will be named the beneficiaries once you pass away. Keep in mind that any retirement and brokerage accounts as well as life insurance policies will supersede your will, so make sure the beneficiary on those documents is the correct person to be making said decisions. Without this document, your assets will not be left to a non-married partner. The state’s law will decide who it will be left to and this will likely not be who you want it to be.
Power of Attorney
A power of attorney gives a person the ability to act on your behalf when dealing with legal and financial matters. The person you choose should be a trusted family member or close friend who you can confide in and know with certainty that they will make sure your wants are executed accordingly, especially if you are ever mentally or physically unable to manage your own affairs. A spouse may sometimes have access to certain accounts or decisions but not an unmarried partner.
There is not a one size fits all family nor a one size fits all estate plan. Make sure your estate plan addresses your family’s needs… no matter what it looks like.
For any more information on how you can achieve peace of mind for your future regardless of whether or not you and your partner take a walk down the aisle, connect with Grimaldi Law Firm today.
Grimaldi Law Firm is an estate planning, real estate, business, and probate law firm located in Hollywood, Florida.
At Grimaldi Law Firm in Hollywood Florida, your future is our present.
About the Author: Melinda Grimaldi is an attorney in Hollywood, Florida, whose practice is concentrated in the areas of commercial and residential real estate and estate planning law.
She can be reached at (954) 491-8707
Special Note: The information on this blog is of a general nature and is not intended to answer any individual’s legal questions. Do not rely on information presented herein to address your individual legal concerns. If you have a legal question about your individual facts and circumstances, you should consult an experienced real estate attorney. Your receipt of information from this website or blog does not create an attorney-client relationship and the legal privileges inherent therein.