Married couples have certain legal rights that unmarried couples don’t have. In Massachusetts, if you’re married and you pass away without having done any estate planning, your assets will be distributed according to the laws of intestacy. This means that your spouse will receive a portion, or all, of your assets depending on what other living relatives you have. If you’re in a relationship but not married, you have no legal connection to your romantic partner. If you pass away without any estate planning documents, the laws of intestacy will give your assets to your close blood relatives. Your partner will get nothing.
As part of an unmarried couple, if you can no longer communicate your health care wishes or how you want to manage your assets, your partner will have difficulty having a say in your care or how your assets are managed. And if you do some estate planning and document plans to leave assets to your partner, you won’t be able to avoid estate tax like you would if you had been married to each other. When a married person dies, they can transfer their assets tax-free to their spouse.
As an unmarried couple, you need to execute certain estate planning documents to ensure that each of you is treated the way you want in the event that one of you dies or becomes incapacitated.
A will or trust directs who will receive your property upon your death, and it appoints a legal representative (“executor” or “trustee”) to carry out your wishes. You can leave assets to your partner and/or name your partner to be your legal representative. Estate planning can also help you take steps to reduce the amount of estate taxes that may have to be paid when either partner passes away and assets transfer.
A durable power of attorney puts a person in control of your legal and financial decisions should you become incapacitated or unable to make your own decisions. Naming your partner in this document will allow your partner to pay bills, manage real property and other assets, and deal with government agencies, like MassHealth or Social Security.
A health care proxy allows you to choose someone you trust, possibly your partner, to make medical decisions for you in case you become incapacitated.
A living will works in conjunction with a health care proxy by expressing your wishes as to how your designated agent, possibly your partner, should proceed in specific circumstances such as how and when you wish to receive medical treatment in the event of a terminal illness.
Let us provide the guidance and advice you need to make an estate plan that works for you, your partner, and your loved ones. Contact us at 617.299.6976 or firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll make a free, no-obligation initial consultation appointment.