First comes love, then comes renting a place together...marriage may or may not follow somewhere on that list.
These days, cohabitation is becoming more normal than marriage. Research indicates over half of all marriages start with unmarried cohabitation.
However, cohabitation doesn't always evolve into marriage, either. Just a little more than half of the unmarried couples who live together will eventually tie the knot -- which means those couples may have some issues that they're going to face as they start estate planning that their married contemporaries won't.
What are some of the most important things to discuss when it comes to estate planning with an unmarried partner?
-- Do you have survivorship rights on your home together? If not, one of you could lose it if the listed owner dies. Similarly, any vehicles, motorcycles or boats need to be protected that way as well.
-- Do you have children? Paternity issues, same-sex adoption and relatives waiting in the wings who don't approve of your lifestyle choices may be waiting for a chance to step in and take over the child rearing -- leaving the survivor out in the cold unless he or she has some legal entitlement to custody.
-- Who has the say-so over your medical care if you become incapacitated? Don't assume the hospital will grant that right to your partner, no matter how long you've been together -- even if there's no blood relative to protest. Get a medical power of attorney and a living will in order.
-- Are all the financial accounts held jointly? If not, does each member of the couple have survivorship access? If not, he or she may be locked out of the money he or she needs to keep up the bills.
-- Is your partner listed as the administrator of your estate? Are you sure the paperwork is in order and meets all current regulations and laws? Otherwise, a blood relative could make a quick grab for the inheritance you meant your partner to have.
-- You also want your will to spell out how your remains are to be handled and whether or not your partner is in charge. Otherwise, family members may step in and take that right away rather easily.
For more information on estate planning for unmarried couples, talk to your attorney today.
Source: Wallman Financial, "10 Estate Planning Problems of Unmarried Couples," accessed June 13, 2017