If you are like many people in the Greensboro, North Carolina area, you might be living together with a romantic partner but not be married. People who live together outside of marriage need to consider estate planning just like every other capable adult, but there are some specific areas that can prove to be more problematic. Married couples automatically earn a variety of rights when they enter into marriage that non-married couples do not automatically have. To help explain why couples living together need to consider estate planning, let’s take a look at some common questions about this topic.
Can I inherit from my partner if we are living together?
You can inherit from a romantic partner even if you are not married, but only under specific circumstances. A couple that lives together outside of marriage does not earn automatic inheritance rights, unlike their married counterparts. For example, if you and your partner have been living together for years, you do not automatically have the right to inherit from your partner if that partner should die. On the other hand, if you have only been together a short period of time and then decide to get married, you automatically earn spousal inheritance rights regardless of how long you have been together.
So, if you are living together and want to give your partner inheritance rights, you have to craft an estate plan that names your partner as the beneficiary of your estate. Should you forget to do this, or choose not to do this, your partner will not inherit anything from you should you die.
Can I make decisions for my partner if he or she becomes incapacitated?
Another common question that many people who are living together outside of marriage have surrounded the issue of what happens if one of them should lose the ability to make choices. Will you, for example, automatically have the right to manage your partner’s financial affairs if he or she is in a serious accident and becomes comatose? What if your partner begins suffering from a serious illness? Will you be able to make medical decisions on your partner’s behalf?
The general answers to all of these kinds of questions is “no.” Again, unlike spouses, unmarried partners do not have the automatic right to make decisions for one another should the other become incapacitated. You can grant your partner this decision-making capacity if you craft specific tools, such as powers of attorney or advance medical directives, but you have to make the decision to do so. If you fail to do so, the ability to make decisions on your partner’s behalf will likely fall to his or her closest family member.
If you are in a committed relationship but unmarried, it is extremely important that you have the proper estate planning documents in place. Contact the Law Offices of Cheryl David online or by calling 336-547-9999 to schedule a consultation with an attorney today.