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Unmarried couples and estate planning

There are many unmarried couples in Washington. Many of these couples have been together for decades and, for whatever reason, have not found it necessary to get married. These couples may have important estate planning topics they may want to explore.

One major issue that unmarried couples run into is what happens to assets when one of them dies. Couples may think that if they have lived together for many years that would be enough to ensure their partner receives their estate if they pass away. But, this is not the case. A survivor in an unmarried couple partnership is not entitled to any of their partner's benefits. They would also not receive notice of probate proceedings or any support that is awarded to those who are legally married. Unless there are estate planning documents in place, an estate is passed to biological relatives. An unexpected disability may also mean that relatives would make medical decisions for a person instead of their partner, unless a power of attorney document is in place.

With careful estate planning an unmarried couple can make sure their desires are followed upon their incapacitation or death. It is important for unmarried couples to create a will, trust, living will, power of attorney and other estate planning documents because they don't receive automatic protection in life emergencies. A legal professional who is skilled in estate planning can help create documents that work for each couple's unique situation. An attorney understands the complications that unmarried couples can run into and can offer helpful suggestions that can ensure their wishes will be followed.

Although estate planning may not appear to be a topic that anyone wants to spend time thinking about, it is very important in making sure a person's loved ones are taken care of when they are no longer around. When a couple is not married, estate planning works to make sure everyone's wishes are legally honored.

Source:, "Estate planning for unmarried couples", Ray and Dana Brandon, Dec. 15, 2017

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