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Virginia Beach Estate Planning Lawyer / Blog / Asset Protection / Unmarried Couples Face Estate Planning Hurdles

Unmarried Couples Face Estate Planning Hurdles

People who choose to live together rather than get married, whatever their reasons, don’t love each other any less.

But the law tends to think they do.

“Unmarried couples do not have legal protections enjoyed by married couples, such as automatic inheritance rights and the ability to make decisions should a spouse become incapacitated,” according to a recent piece in the Los Angeles Times. “Unmarried couples should take specific legal steps to ensure that their wishes have legal force.”

“In general, estates must deal with two major areas of the law: probate law, which governs the distribution of your property after your death, and gift and estate tax laws, which govern the taxation of the property you transfer to others,” an article on the website Smarterdollars.com states. “As a partner in an unmarried couple, you have reason to be concerned with both of these areas. Laws that protect and favor married couples don’t apply to you. Without proper protection, your surviving partner could be ordered out of a house you share, your next of kin could dispose of your estate in a way of which you would not approve or taxes could take a big bite out of the bequest you leave to your partner. Your partner could be left out of financial and medical decision making if you become seriously ill or incapacitated. Don’t take anything for granted. Get your estate plan in order. You owe it to yourself and your partner to ensure that your estate is handled according to your wishes.”

“For the increasing number of couples unable to or unwilling to get married, financial planning is crucial to avoid unpleasant surprises,” the website Investopedia.com advises. “After all, when it comes to taxes and other financial benefits, we live in a society that provides benefits to those who wed and punishes those who don’t.”

The most important step unmarried couples should take, the experts agree, is to prepare a will specifying their wishes in the event of death or incapacity. That’s followed by having an estate plan. The L.A. Times story state that “people with estates worth more than about $500,000 should consult an attorney who specializes in estate planning.”

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