Estate Planning for Unmarried Couples

Shawn Plummer, CRPC

Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor

Understanding Estate Planning Needs

Estate planning for unmarried couples can be more complex than for married couples. Without legal marriage, you’re not automatically entitled to each other’s assets or decision-making rights in case of incapacity or death. Therefore, deliberate planning is crucial.

Estate Planning Unmarried Couples

Key Steps in Estate Planning

  1. Create Wills: Each partner should have a will to specify how their assets will be distributed. This is essential for directing assets to your partner, as they won’t automatically inherit without a will.
  2. Life Insurance: Invest in life insurance policies and name each other as beneficiaries. This provides financial security for the surviving partner, helping to cover expenses and maintain their standard of living.
  3. Establish Power of Attorney: Designate a power of attorney for each partner to handle financial and legal decisions in case of incapacitation.
  4. Set Up Healthcare Directives: Implement healthcare directives, including a living will and a healthcare power of attorney, to ensure medical wishes are followed and someone is designated to make healthcare decisions if necessary.
  5. Title Property Jointly: Consider titling property as joint tenants with rights of survivorship. This allows the property to pass directly to the surviving partner without going through probate.
  6. Update Beneficiary Designations: Ensure that beneficiary designations on retirement accounts, life insurance policies, and other financial accounts are up-to-date, naming your partner as the beneficiary.
  7. Consider Trusts: Establishing a trust can offer more control over how assets are distributed and can be beneficial for avoiding the probate process.
  8. Understand Tax Implications: Be aware of potential tax liabilities, especially for large estates. It’s advisable to consult a tax professional for tailored advice.
  9. Review and Update Regularly: Life changes, such as purchasing property or having children, necessitate regular reviews and updates to your estate plan.

Example of Estate Planning

Consider a couple, Alex and Jordan. They own a house together but are not married. They create wills leaving their respective shares of the house and other assets to each other. They also set up powers of attorney and healthcare directives. To avoid probate, they place their house and certain assets in a trust, with each other as the beneficiaries.

Estate Planning For Unmarried Couples


Having an estate planning checklist ensures that your wishes are respected, and your partner is protected in the event of your incapacity or death. By following these steps, unmarried couples can create a secure plan for their future. Contact us today for a free quote.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Is estate planning less critical for unmarried couples?

Married or state-registered couples may need an estate plan, but the importance of having one is even greater for unmarried or unregistered couples. It protects the surviving partner and any minor children in case something happens to them and allows them to name people responsible for making medical and financial decisions on their behalf. A well-crafted estate plan can make all the difference in a crisis.

How should unmarried couples split finances?

While combining funds through a joint bank account is one of the more popular choices for couples, whether married or not, it can be risky. However, those who find success in keeping a joint account often reap the benefits from its convenience and accessibility to withdraw and deposit money with ease.

How do you protect assets if not married?

Creating a Living Trust is often the optimal solution for those who have amassed significant wealth. Additionally, it’s wise to construct both a Living Will and Durable Power of Attorney for further protection. To share ownership of your assets with another individual you trust, exploring Joint Ownership options may be beneficial too. Finally, regarding banking accounts and investments such as retirement funds, consider the most suitable avenues for protecting your interests in these areas.

At what age do most people do estate planning?

Most people think eighteen is too young to start planning an estate, but it’s one of the best times. Even though most teenagers have few possessions and a long life ahead, there are many advantages to starting early – far more than waiting until later in life! No matter your age, today is the best time to set up your estate plan. So don’t miss out on this opportunity; take control of your future and secure its success with an estate plan as soon as possible!

What is the most critical decision in estate planning?

Having a will or trust is one of the most critical steps to take when creating an estate plan, even if you don’t have significant assets. A will ensures that your property and belongings are distributed by what you desire as long as it meets all relevant state regulations.

Who should be my beneficiary if you are single?

Many single people usually name their parents or siblings as primary beneficiaries when no children are involved. Another viable option is to designate someone accountable for settling your final debts and covering the funeral expenses. If you are financially responsible for multiple loved ones, each beneficiary can be named a primary recipient.

What happens when your partner dies, and you are not married?

Without a will, if an unmarried partner passes away, their family is legally entitled to all of the decedent’s assets and possessions. This can leave their significant other with nothing while they suffer through this tragedy – no justice! Through intestacy laws, the court has complete discretion when distributing property among heirs based on relationship ties.

Why do unmarried couples need an estate plan?

Unmarried couples often face unique legal challenges because they don’t automatically have the same rights as married couples in the eyes of the law, particularly regarding inheritance and decision-making if one partner becomes incapacitated. An estate plan is crucial for ensuring that each partner’s wishes are respected and enforced. It can include wills specifying how assets should be distributed, durable powers of attorney for financial and healthcare decisions, and beneficiary designations that bypass probate.

Shawn Plummer, CRPC

Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor

Shawn Plummer is a Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor, insurance agent, and annuity broker with over 14 years of first-hand experience with annuities and insurance. Since beginning his journey in 2009, he has been pivotal in selling and educating about annuities and insurance products. Still, he has also played an instrumental role in training financial advisors for a prestigious Fortune Global 500 insurance company, Allianz. His insights and expertise have made him a sought-after voice in the industry, leading to features in renowned publications such as Time Magazine, Bloomberg, Entrepreneur, Yahoo! Finance, MSN, SmartAsset, The Simple Dollar, U.S. News and World Report, Women’s Health Magazine, and many more. Shawn’s driving ambition? To simplify retirement planning, he ensures his clients understand their choices and secure the best insurance coverage at unbeatable rates.

The Annuity Expert is an independent online insurance agency servicing consumers across the United States. The goal is to help you take the guesswork out of retirement planning and find the best insurance coverage at the cheapest rates

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