Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Estate Planning for Unmarried, Cohabitating Couples

Many people live with their significant other, but for any number of reasons, choose not to get married.  Even though cohabitation may be legal, unmarried cohabitants face unique estate planning challenges regarding incapacity, inheritance, and estate taxation. Estate planning is especially important for people in this situation, if they expect their significant other to inherit property from them upon their death.

What are some of the challenges cohabitating couples face (without estate planning in place)?
  • Unlike their married counterparts, unmarried cohabitants will not be able to make fundamental health and financial decisions for one another in the event of incapacity.
  • Absent proper legal planning, state laws that determine the distribution of assets of a person who dies without an estate plan will leave nothing to the surviving cohabitant.
  • The unlimited marital deduction is an unlimited deduction for estate (and gift) tax purposes, but only for transfers between spouses.
  • It is vital that couples who elect to cohabitate obtain expert legal counsel to minimize or eliminate these adverse results.
  • LGBT cohabitating couples face additional legal hurdles when it comes to estate planning. Read more about them here and follow our blog for post-DOMA updates.
Without proper estate planning - and depending on how assets are titled - an unmarried partner could receive nothing and even potentially be forced out of the home the couple may have shared for years.  This can be a very unpleasant surprise for people who have planned their life together, but chose not to get married.

It is highly recommended that people in this situation meet with a Certified Elder Law Attorney, such as Evan H. Farr, to explore their estate planning options to avoid unwanted consequences when one partner passes away.  It's crucial that people don't assume that their partner will be "taken care of" by other family members or heirs. 

Estate planning strategies such as those employed by the Fairfax Estate Planning Firm of Evan H. Farr, P.C. are extremely valuable techniques for everyone, single or married. Most people have worked their entire life to accumulate the property that they own.  Everyone needs the peace of mind that comes with making sure that their finances are taken care of if they become incapacitated, that decisions about health care are carried out the way they’d like even if they’re not able to make them, and that their children and other heirs are taken care of when that time eventually comes. If you haven’t started your estate planning or would like to update your documents, call 703-691-1888 to make an appointment for a no-cost consultation.

P.S. We now have an office in Downtown Fredericksburg, VA. Please call us at 1-800-399-FARR to make an appointment for a no-cost consultation at our new second location!

Fredericksburg Elder Law

Estate Planning


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