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Not married? Protect each other through estate planning

Considering the high number of Delaware couples who divorce, a couple may decide that marriage is not for them. They believe that a document will not change the nature of their relationship, so why bother. That may be the case for a marriage license, but when it comes to estate planning, those documents could make all the difference.

For instance, what happens if one party suffers an injury or illness that prevents him or her from making health care and financial decisions, even temporarily? Without powers of attorney in place, the other party may not have any legal right to make health care decisions that he or she knows the other party would want to be made. Other family members would step in and make those choices instead. In fact, the other partner may not even be able to obtain information regarding the ill or injured partner's condition.

In the event of death, the surviving partner may not be entitled to an inheritance without the proper documentation in place. In fact, if the deceased member of the couple owned the home the pair lived in, family members may oust the other party. A properly crafted estate plan could prevent this from happening.

Making the choice not to marry may work best for a Delaware couple, but it does require taking additional steps to ensure that the partner left behind has certain rights and protections. Estate planning can protect a surviving partner. An estate plan can also help ensure that an incapacitated partner's wishes are honored when he or she cannot make decisions. In order to devise a plan that best represents a party's wishes, it may be beneficial to contact an estate-planning attorney for help.

Source: memphisdailynews.com, "Estate Planning For Unmarried Couples", Ray and Dana Brandon, Dec. 15, 2017

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