An Estate Planning Tool Kit for Unmarried Partners
Estate planning is a crucial step for every individual, but it holds even greater importance for unmarried partners in long-term committed relationships. Without proper planning, your partner may not receive your assets or be able to make critical decisions on your behalf. In this blog post, we will explore the must-have documents for your estate planning tool kit, ensuring that your money, property, and decision-making authority are in the right hands. By discussing these crucial documents with an experienced estate planning attorney, you can safeguard your partner's future and your own peace of mind.
Last Will + Testament
A last will and testament, commonly known as a will, empowers you to designate beneficiaries and distribute your assets as per your wishes. However, it's important to note that a will typically goes through a time-consuming, expensive, and public probate court process. In certain situations, court oversight can be beneficial, especially if you want to protect your family members' interests or address substantial claims from creditors. An experienced attorney can guide you through the intricacies of drafting a will that aligns with your specific needs.
Revocable Living Trust
A revocable living trust (RLT) is a flexible tool that allows you to manage your assets during your lifetime and determine their distribution upon your death or incapacity. By naming yourself as the current trustee, you retain control over your money and property. Additionally, you can appoint a co-trustee or alternate trustee, such as your partner, to ensure seamless management if you're unable to fulfill your trustee duties (e.g., at incapacity or death). An RLT can serve as a powerful mechanism for providing ongoing financial support to your partner while protecting your assets from potential creditors or future relationships. And a huge bonus, when done right, it will help you avoid probate!
To complement your revocable living trust, you will include a pour-over will. This special will ensures that any accounts or properties inadvertently excluded from your trust during your lifetime are transferred to it upon your death. By doing so, you guarantee that these assets align with the distribution plan outlined in your trust document, benefiting the individuals or charities you've designated.
Financial Power of Attorney
A financial power of attorney grants a trusted person, such as your partner, the authority to handle financial matters on your behalf. You have the flexibility to define the scope of your agent's authority, whether broad or limited and specify when they can act—immediately or upon your incapacity. It is crucial to make your financial power of attorney durable, enabling your agent to continue managing your affairs even if you become incapacitated. By proactively selecting your agent, you retain control over who handles financial transactions, avoiding potential conflicts or court-appointed decisions.
Medical Power of Attorney
A medical power of attorney (aka Advance Health Care Directive in California) allows you to designate a trusted individual, including your partner, as your decision-maker for healthcare matters when you cannot make decisions yourself. By formally selecting a decision-maker, you avoid potential court involvement and ensure that your partner has the authority to make crucial healthcare choices on your behalf. Failing to appoint a decision-maker may result in the court selecting a blood relative instead of your partner. Safeguard your partner's role by creating a medical power of attorney that aligns with your wishes.
HIPAA Authorization Form
This form allows you to grant specific individuals access to your medical information (e.g., to get a status update on your condition or receive your test results) without giving those individuals the authority to make decisions on your behalf. By providing information to your loved ones, you can help quiet the anxieties and uncertainties that often arise during times of emergency. This document can also help alleviate tensions between your partner as the medical decision-maker and the rest of your loved ones. Although only your partner will make medical decisions, your other loved ones will understand why those decisions are made.
Let Us Build Your Toolkit Today
The future is always uncertain. Now is the perfect time to meet with us so we can build or upgrade your estate planning tool kit. Call us today to schedule an in-person or virtual consultation, whichever is most convenient for you.
Meza Talbott Law
A Modern Family + Estates Firm
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