It has been reported that marriage
conveys a potential one thousand (1,000) or more rights for each
partner in a marriage.** These rights include the
- Protections under probate inheritance
- Preferences under rules for healthcare
and disability proxies;
- Ability to transfer substantial sums
to one another without a gift or estate tax liability;
- Survivor's benefits under pension,
retirement and the Social Security system; and
- Alimony and other rights to the other
spouse's property upon termination of marriage.**
These benefits are not available for
partners who, for whatever reason, are not officially married.
In order to achieve similar protections and benefits, they must
engage in comprehensive estate planning.
An example of the devastating results
unmarried couples may face without planning is as
Steve and Tara are in their 40's and have
known each other since High School. They have lived with
each other for the last 10 years, and while they refer to each other
as being married, they are not recognized by the state as being
so. They have no children, and no estate plan.
Steve's parents have never approved of
his relationship with Tara, and for the last ten years have refused
to speak with Steve. Steve considers Tara his family now, and
wishes to provide for her above all others.
Unfortunately, Steve is in a car accident
and is in a coma. Tara rushes to the hospital to visit Steve,
but the hospital limits visitors to "immediate family", which to
them means next of kin. Tara is neither, and she is denied
access because they have no estate plan. Further, the
hospital will not release medical information on Steve's status to
Tara since she is not a spouse or family member. She is left
in the dark.
At this point, medical decisions need to
be made for Steve, and the only people authorized to do so are
Steve's family members, who have shunned him for ten years.
Again, Tara is left out because of the lack of proper
Steve passes away some time later, and
things get worse. Tara has no rights of inheritance that a
spouse would get, and all of Steve's assets go to his parents.
Tara is completely left out, despite her 10 years of living with her
loved one, simply because they were not married and had not planned
Planning for unmarried couples is
especially important. If you'd like a free consultation to
discuss how these issues can be avoided in your life, please contact me.
**This information is contained in the
excellent book Loving Without A License. To order a
copy, visit www.lovingwithoutalicense.com.