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Not married to your partner? Estate planning is still crucial

Many Delaware couples decide that marriage is not for them. They do not feel that they need a legal document to remain in a committed relationship. That may be true of a marriage license, but when it comes to estate planning, unmarried couples need certain legal documents in place just like their married counterparts. In fact, it may be even more important for those who are not married.

For example, if one of the parties is unable to make medical decisions for him or herself, an unmarried partner may not have any access, let alone any say, in the medical care received. A health care power of attorney could provide the other partner with access to medical information and decision-making authority. Without this document, the partner would need to go to court to obtain the right to make health care decisions.

During this time, the wishes of the incapacitated partner could be ignored. In addition, other family members may object to the other party obtaining a guardianship. This would only further delay the process.

A will can clearly outline each party's wishes when it comes to the distribution of assets to each other upon death. For instance, unless the title to a home gives the parties joint ownership with right of survivorship or provisions have been made to allow the surviving partner the right to live in the home until his or her death, the state of Delaware will distribute the home in accordance with its intestacy laws without a will. This means that a blood relative would end up owning the home instead.

These are just two examples of why estate planning is important for unmarried couples. In order to properly provide for a committed partner upon death, an estate plan will need to be created. If an individual relies on family members to carry out his or her wishes without any legal documentation to back it up, the other party could end up without the home and other support the individual intended to provide.

Source: wilmingtonbiz.com, "The Importance Of Estate Planning For Unmarried Couples," Kara Gansmann, Aug. 1, 2017

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