Modern families are complex, which means there are a number of valid reasons why a couple might be in a long-term committed relationship without being legally married. However, intestate succession laws only protect people who are related by blood or marriage. If you were to die without a will in place, your partner would end up with none of your assets. Instead, your assets would automatically be given to your children, your parents, or your siblings.
Estate Planning Tips for Unmarried Couples
Estate plans must always be personalized to fit individual needs, but here are some general tips that can help you plan for the future as an unmarried couple:
- Your home should be owned in joint tenancy with the right of survivorship. This ensures that when one of you passes away, the surviving partner receives 100% of the property.
- You can use the transfer-on-death designation on the certificate of registration to leave your partner a motor vehicle.
- Bank, investment, and retirement accounts don’t pass through your will. You can leave them to your partner using their beneficiary designations.
- You can use your will to leave personal items and other non-probate assets to your partner and to name them as executor of your estate.
- There is no tax exemption for unmarried couples who inherit each other's assets, so you may need a trust to reduce tax liability if you have a sizable amount of assets to leave to your partner.
- A living will and durable power of attorney will ensure that your partner has the legal authority to make medical or financial decisions on your behalf if you are unable to speak for yourself due to illness or injury.
Once your estate plan has been created, don’t forget that your plan needs to be reevaluated periodically to ensure it still fits your needs. Income changes, asset changes, changes in family relationships, or changes in tax laws can all necessitate updates to your plan. If we created your original documents, free reviews are included every three years as part of our Client Care Maintenance Program.
Do You Need to Speak With a Lawyer About Estate Planning?
If you need to speak with an experienced estate planning lawyer, please contact us online, or call our Virginia Beach office to schedule your free consultation. We have offices throughout Virginia, including Chesapeake, Newport News, Norfolk, and Suffolk.