If you are an unmarried couple, your estate planning concerns are much different than a married couple.
The most obvious concern is that if you are an unmarried couple and you pass away without any estate planning (no will, no nothing), then your property will pass according to the intestate succession laws. In many states, if you pass away with a spouse and children, all your property is distributed to your spouse and children. However, your spouse can receive no less than 1/3 of your estate.
What if you are in a long-term relationship and never get married? Despite how long you were together, if you are not married and you were to pass away, your partner would not be entitled to inherit from your estate.
If you are an unmarried couple, you need to specifically provide for that person in your last will and testament or trust. Leaving your entire estate to your partner in your last will and testament could accomplish these goals. However, if you have children from a prior marriage that are not receiving your inheritance, this could create additional problems.
Probate Court System
If someone is expecting to inherit from your estate and discovers they are receiving nothing, it can turn into a very emotional situation. The issue with using a will to distribute your estate to your partner and leaving nothing to your children from a prior marriage, is that your will and your entire estate will have to go through the probate court system. As stated, many times before, this is a public court proceeding resulting in your entire life being subject to public record. In addition, it may increase the possibility that your estate will be contested by surviving family members.
For these reasons, many of our clients in these situations prefer to set up trusts. When you set up a trust, and the trust has been properly funded with all your assets, the probate process is completely avoided. In addition, the estate settlement process is private as opposed to being a public court proceeding. However, this does not necessarily prevent an heir from contesting your will and your trust. If you are an unmarried couple and you are leaving everything to your partner and writing out your children from a prior marriage, then the best practice is to discuss your wishes with your children so that they are not surprised when you pass away. If this continues to become an issue even after this discussion, then a “no contest” clause may be an appropriate strategy for your estate plan.
For More Information
If you are an unmarried couple, it is imperative that you have an estate planning discussion so that your partner is provided for in the event of your death. If you have questions on how to plan your estate so that this risk is eliminated for your family, please contact our office for a complimentary visit so that we can discuss your estate planning needs.
We look forward to hearing from you!