Estate planning is a must when you have a life partner but no marriage, domestic partnership, or civil union. Without the certificate, none of you can inherit from each other, and both of you won’t have a say in each other’s end-of-life medical care.
If you don’t write a will, the state laws will be used to decide where the property you owned will go after your death, and it won’t go to an unmarried partner. Instead, it’s your relatives closest to you like your parents that would inherit. In the same way, only your spouse or a person with a valid power of attorney can make medical decisions for you in case you’re incapacitated. Luckily, you can create all the legal documents you need yourself.
If there are assets you care about, writing a will ensures that you can leave the property to the beneficiaries of your choice: your friends, your partner, children, charitable organizations, etc. Without a will, a probate court will most likely decide to distribute much of the property you leave behind among your siblings or parents, based on your state’s laws.
For those with young children, the vital thing about writing a will is to choose a guardian for them. The guardian will raise them in case neither parents was able to. Without a valid will, the court appoints another person as the guardian. If you’re the legal parents of the children, it’s best to appoint someone else as the guardian, since a guardian is only needed if both parents are unavailable.
Owning Assets Together
Owning big-ticket items like cars and houses together in joint tenancy with a right of survivorship is another effective way to make sure that you are not left out in the cold in case the other partner dies. Joint tenancy ensures that the survivor partner will automatically own 100% of the property.
Applying for joint tenancy involves putting both of your names on the official title document of the asset, such as the deed or title of your house, or the car’s certificate.
Designating the Beneficiaries for your Bank and other Accounts
Depending on your relationship, you and your partner might not want to share the ownership of assets. Since you can’t share retirement accounts, you will need some other ways to make sure that only the assets in your name will go to your partner after you’re gone.
These valuable assets like investment, bank and retirement accounts may not pass to your will. All you need to do is to leave them to the person of your choice asking for a beneficiary designation from the account custodian or bank, and list the people you would like to inherit your funds.
Make Durable Powers of Attorney and Make Living Wills
If you want to provide your partner the authority over your medical and financial decisions at incapacitation, you’ll need these documents. The durable powers of attorney for finances can be used to give either partner the authority over each of your assets. Durable powers of attorney for healthcare ideally give either partner the authority to make a medical decision for the other, in case you are unable to make them on your own.
Schedule Your Consultation with Our Experienced California Estate Planning Attorney
Celaya Law is an estate planning law firm in Napa, California. Attorney Anthony Celaya helps families in Napa, Sonoma, St. Helena, Calistoga, and the surrounding areas with setting up wills and living trusts, special needs planning, asset protection, probate administration, business law, and retirement planning.
Schedule a planning session with our experienced Napa attorney today to learn how we can help you and your family: (707) 492-3112.