Unmarried Couples Need Special Estate Planning Protection

Portrait of mature couple in nature.It is a controversial fact, but a fact nonetheless: fewer and fewer people are getting married.

Studies consistently show that a growing number of American couples are choosing to stay unmarried. And those that do wed are tending to wait longer before tying the knot, marrying at much older ages than they used to.

As The Huffington Post points out, many widowed seniors are opting to simply cohabitate with their second partner rather than going through the formalities of marriage again. And even among same-sex couples, for which marriage was nationally recognized just this summer, some are deciding that marriage isn’t for them.

As Pennington estate planning attorneys, we aren’t here to weigh in on whether or not you should get married. We just want to make sure you understand the legal implications of deciding to remain unwed for any significant period of time, particularly where estate planning is concerned.

The reality is that estate planning for married couples and estate planning for unmarried couples are two totally different inquiries. They demand different approaches.

“For example,” HuffPo writes, “legally married couples are allowed to leave their entire estate to the surviving spouse estate tax free. Everyone else is subject to pay tax on amounts over the exclusion amount.”

That’s only one instance of the married/unmarried divide in estate planning. All of the following must be considered in light of your marital status:

  • Trusts
  • Healthcare directives
  • Power of attorney
  • Insurance policies
  • Bank accounts
  • Child guardianship
  • Asset distribution / inheritance
  • Employment benefits
  • Pensions
  • Victim’s compensation funds
  • Hospital visitation rights
  • Social security benefits
  • Property ownership
  • Common law marriages from other states
  • Much more

If you and your loved one have decided not to marry — or even if you’re open to marriage someday but it probably isn’t happening anytime soon — you need to take steps now to prepare yourself and your family for the unexpected.

Medina Law Group can help. You can meet with our Pennington estate planning attorneys in a compassionate, judgment free safe zone and have a confidential discussion about strategic decisions for your future as a couple. Please contact us as soon as possible to take your next steps.