Even though a couple may have lived together for years or decades, in the eyes of the law they are still treated as if they were two single people with no formal relation. 

Local news for New York reported on how unmarried couples should be sure to do some basic estate planning to protect their assets.

Planning for the future for unwed couples

A person’s estate, which includes essentially everything they own, should be managed in the event of a sudden death, emergency, or incapacitation. Couples who are unmarried may also need to do some additional research because the law still sees them as two separate individuals for the purposes of property disposition. 

Property lawyers and estate planners say that unmarried couples should have some kind of basic plan in place even if they have a small amount of assets to make sure that their significant other will be protected. 

One of the lawyers interviewed said that dying without any kind of estate plan can create a mess, and this is even more true for unmarried couples. 

As an example, the news detailed the process for one local couple. After five years of living together they had signed a number of different documents related to finances and property that will essentially create an estate plan. This is best done with the help of a professional, to avoid mistakes and any uncertainty. Not only will a plan protect commitments that the two members of the couple made to each other, it will also avoid situations where the property may go to an unintended party without a will or other document that tells the courts what to do with an estate. When a person dies without a will or other such documents, a set of default rules set by the state’s intestacy statute governs. 

Many married couples can avoid some of these problems because the default rules will automatically give most or all of the estate to the surviving spouse. However, couples who never formally married will not have these protections. Common law marriages are also only still available in a few states in America, and New York is not one of them.  

This trend in estate planning should become even more important in the future. From 2007 to 2016 data shows that the number of cohabiting unmarried adults increased by over 20% in every age group. 

Retirement accounts also need to be managed properly, especially in situations where the person named in the account versus a will may be two entirely different people. 

Talk with an estate planning lawyer in your city

There are attorneys in New York City who help people with estate planning and property issues. To get more specific advice tailored to your personal situation, contact Ron L. Meyers and Associates.

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