Man and woman estate planning

10 Estate Planning Problems of Unmarried Couples

Texas and federal law provide far more protections to married couples than to unmarried couples. This situation is strikingly problematic in the area of estate planning. A Texas estate planning attorney can talk to you about these issues and help you craft documents tailored specifically to your situation and goals.

Here are 10 estate planning problems unmarried couples may face:

  1. You might receive health insurance through your partner. Also, you might receive the benefit of your partner’s income, investments, retirement benefits, and government benefits during your partner’s lifetime. You could lose all of those things when your partner dies.
  2. Unless your partner names you as the executor of their estate in their will, you will not be legally authorized to serve as the personal representative or administrator of your partner’s estate.
  3. If your partner becomes incapacitated or disabled and has not named you as their agent or attorney-in-fact in a durable financial power of attorney, you will not have the ability to manage their financial affairs for them.
  4. You and your partner might have lived together in a house for years, but if your name is not on the lease or the title to the real estate, you could lose your home and have to move.
  5. You might have raised children with your partner, but if you do not have parental rights, you could lose custody of those children.
  6. The biological family of your partner could block you from making medical decisions or even visiting your partner in the hospital unless your partner designated you as the decision-maker in a medical power of attorney or living will.
  7. You could be prevented from sharing a nursing home room or an assisted living apartment with your partner. 
  8. If your partner becomes incapacitated and you are not designated as your partner’s agent or attorney-in-fact in a financial power of attorney, you might not get the legal authority to serve as the guardian of the person or conservator of the estate of your partner.
  9. If your partner owned the pets in your household and did not leave them to you in a pet trust or a will, you could lose your pets.
  10. Unmarried couples do not get a marital estate deduction as married couples do, so they could end up paying higher federal estate taxes. Also, because unmarried partners cannot roll over retirement accounts from one to the other, unlike married couples, this situation can also cause higher federal estate taxes. 

Many of these undesired consequences can be avoided or at least minimized by the savvy use of estate planning documents. These papers need to be prepared in advance, because once your partner dies or becomes incapacitated, there is very little that can get done to change the outcome. Some of the estate planning documents that could make a significant difference for unmarried couples include a will or revocable living trust, durable financial power of attorney, and durable medical power of attorney with a medical records authorization or release that complies with HIPAA regulations. You will want to work with a Texas estate planning attorney about the documents you need. For help with your case get in touch with our office today, we gladly offer a free consultation.