If you are in a committed romantic relationship and have yet to do so, you and your partner need to talk about estate planning this year. The conversation may not be comfortable or easy, but it is the responsible thing to do. Here are some issues of which you want to be aware when you and your partner talk about estate planning.
You and Your Partner Need to Talk about Estate Planning: Emergencies
Do you know what will happen to you if your partner is involved in an accident tomorrow? Will you be allowed to make hospital visits? Will you be able to talk to your partner’s health care providers about the kinds of care he or she should receive? Will you be able to use your partner’s financial accounts to pay his or her bills?
In general, romantic partners do not have the automatic right to do any of these things. In emergency situations where people become incapacitated, decision-making responsibilities fall to spouses or family members.
This means that even if you’ve been in a committed relationship for decades, your right to make choices for your partner may not be legally recognized. If you want your partner to have these rights you’ll have to act to delegate your decision-making responsibilities.
You and Your Partner Need to Talk about Estate Planning: Marriage
If you are planning on getting married, there are a number of issues you will have to think about. One of the most important is the question of inheritances. Neither you nor your partner has automatic inheritance rights prior to marriage. All that changes after you get married. Once you are married, both of you have the right to inherit from the other upon the other’s death.
If you have already created an inheritance or estate plan you will have to amend this plan to recognize your change in marital status. On the other hand, if you don’t have a plan and want to create one, you’ll have to create one that takes your marital status into consideration.
You and Your Partner Need to Talk about Estate Planning: Desires
Your marital status aside, talking about what both of you want to happen in the future is always important. This means talking about money and children, but also about emergencies and health care wishes in the event of serious injury or illness. These talks can be difficult but you need to have them. Both of you also need to take the time to write your choices and wishes in a legally enforceable manner so you can be sure your wishes will be respected. This is important and not a do-it-yourself project, so seek legal counsel when proceeding.