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Estate Planning for Unmarried Couples

Estate planning is just as important for unmarried couples as it is for married couples. While the legal protections and default rules provided to married couples may not automatically apply to unmarried partners, proper estate planning can ensure that both partners’ wishes are respected and their interests are safeguarded. Here are some key considerations for estate planning for unmarried couples:

  1. Wills and Trusts: Without a will, state intestacy laws may not recognize an unmarried partner as a legal heir, leaving their assets vulnerable to distribution according to the state’s default rules. Creating a will allows each partner to specify how they want their assets to be distributed, ensuring their wishes are respected. Trusts can also be valuable tools for unmarried couples to provide for each other and avoid probate.
  2. Beneficiary Designations: Consider naming each other as beneficiaries on life insurance policies, retirement accounts, and other assets. These beneficiary designations take precedence over a will, so it’s essential to keep them up to date to reflect your current wishes.
  3. Durable Power of Attorney: Granting a durable power of attorney allows your partner to make financial decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated. This authority can be crucial for managing your financial affairs and ensuring your partner can act in your best interests.
  4. Healthcare Power of Attorney and Living Will: Designate each other as healthcare proxies to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so. Additionally, a living will can express your preferences for medical treatments and end-of-life care.
  5. Guardianship for Children: If you have children together, it’s crucial to address guardianship in your estate plan. Naming a guardian in your will ensures that your children will be cared for by someone you trust if both parents pass away.
  6. Joint Ownership and Agreements: Consider joint ownership of assets, such as real estate and bank accounts, to ensure they pass directly to the surviving partner upon death. Cohabitation agreements can also clarify how shared assets and expenses are managed during the relationship.
  7. Tax Planning: Unmarried couples may face certain tax implications, especially when it comes to estate and gift taxes. Working with an estate planning attorney can help optimize your tax planning strategies.
  8. Domestic Partnership or Civil Union Registration: In some states or jurisdictions, registering as domestic partners or entering into a civil union can provide certain legal rights and protections for unmarried couples.

Work with an Experienced Washington Estate Planning Attorney
Given the complex legal landscape for unmarried couples, seeking guidance from an experienced estate planning attorney is essential. A customized estate plan can ensure that your wishes are protected, your loved ones are provided for, and your assets are distributed according to your intentions, regardless of your marital status. Call Gregorek & Associates at 425-284-3450 or fill out our contact form and we will be in touch to schedule a meeting.

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