Why unmarried couples may need estate plans

People in New Jersey who live with a partner but are not married could risk losing their shared assets if the partner dies. Furthermore, unmarried partners legally do not have a right to make medical decisions on behalf of each other. However, creating an estate plan can help solve these problems.

A health care power of attorney names the person who will make medical decisions. This includes the right to decide on life-saving procedures and organ donations. Therefore, it is important that partners clearly understand each other's wishes in this area. Another important consideration is the home that the two people live in. If it is in only one person's name, with no estate plan in place, and that person dies, the partner could be forced to leave. There are several options, including adding the other person to the title, for dealing with this possibility. Other assets will be distributed to family members and not the unmarried partner if there is no estate plan. This could include assets that the partners consider shared.

Unmarried partners who are creating estate plans to protect one another in the event of one's death may want to talk to family and friends about the plans as well. This could reduce the likelihood of legal challenges later.

Another consideration may be financial powers of attorney for both partners. This means that if one person is incapacitated through injury or illness, the partner has the authority to manage that person's financial matters. Unmarried partners who have children from previous relationships may also want to set aside some assets for their children. These assets could be placed in a trust if the children are minors or the person feels the children might not be responsible enough to manage the money on their own.

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