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Virginia Beach Estate Planning Lawyer / Blog / Estate Planning / Older Unmarried Couples Must Get Estate Planning Done

Older Unmarried Couples Must Get Estate Planning Done

Young people who decide to live together without benefit of clergy, as the old expression had it, may not have any pressing need to figure out the complexities they face in estate planning, but seasoned citizens who choose to forego the formalities face some very real time pressure.

While it is important for people of all ages sharing their lives to understand the special hurdles involved, it is imperative for elderly couples who, for a variety of reasons, opt to reside together without marrying to do so.

“More people are cohabitating in lieu of marriage these days than ever before in our nation’s history,” according to Missouri attorney Bradford L. Stevens. “In 1930, married couples accounted for 84 percent of American households. In the year 2000, just 70 years later, married couples were barely in the majority at 52 percent. The trend does not seem to have bottomed-out, either. In 2005, married couples were the minority at 49.7 percent. And, it is not just young couples. In fact, between 2001 and 2006, the number of unmarried cohabitants older than age 55 rose 61 percent, from 340,000 to 549,000.

“Even though cohabitation is legal in the majority of states, unmarried cohabitants face unique estate planning challenges regarding incapacity, inheritance and estate taxation.”

When it comes to property, Palm Springs, Calif., attorney Kathleen Marie Whitney urges people to enter into a joint tenancy arrangement.

“Joint tenancy is a form of co-ownership in which two or more persons own property in equal undivided interests” Whitney advises. “A deceased joint tenant’s interest passes automatically to the surviving joint tenant or tenants at the moment of death, without requiring probate administration. Unlike married couples, upon your death, the entire property is included in your estate unless it can be proven that all or a portion of the property originally belonged to your partner and was never received or acquired by your partner from you for less than its full value.”

“It may be difficult for unmarried couples to discuss their living arrangements as well as their family dynamics, but if you can find a good attorney, he or she will help you through the difficult process,” advises Colorado lawyer Tamra K. Waltemath. “In the long run, you will be more comfortable in your last days if you plan ahead.”

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