Estate planning for unmarried couples

What Unmarried Couples Need To Include In Their Estate Plans

Marriage isn’t the only way to make a family. Couples may share the same home, finances, and children for decades without ever walking down the aisle. Whether you and your partner have decided against matrimony or are putting the wedding off until the time is right, the legal status of your union doesn’t really affect your day-to-day life. However, without proper estate planning for unmarried couples, unthinkable situations can become realities.

You and your partner may not need a piece of paper to define your relationship, but unfortunately, the law does. If you were to pass away, your life partner could be forced to leave the family home and have no legal claim to the nest egg you built together. If you are suddenly incapacitated, a blood relative might be given control over your medical decisions—including barring your partner from your hospital room. 

The good news is that you don’t need to get married to provide your partner with valuable protection. If you’re in a committed relationship and don’t have the right documents in place, you should contact a trusted Florida estate planning lawyer as soon as possible to create your personalized protection plan.

5 Documents Essential to Estate Planning for Unmarried Couples

Estate planning is essential for all Floridians, but it’s arguably more important for unmarried couples because they lack the legal benefits given to surviving spouses. needs to have some fundamental planning strategies. If something happens to one partner, these five tools can help protect the surviving partner’s inheritance, home, children, decision-making ability, and financial stability:

Last Will and Testament

What will happen to your home and prized possessions upon your death? Who will raise your children—and manage their inheritances—until they come of age? If you don’t have a valid Will, these decisions will be made by the State of Florida’s intestacy laws. Anything owned solely in your name goes to your nearest blood relative—your parents, siblings, or aunts and uncles. A second cousin you never met could potentially collect more of your estate than an unmarried partner!

A Will provides a list of your assets and detailed instructions on how they should be distributed after your passing. Once named, unmarried partners, friends, or even charities become the legal inheritors of your assets. However, the Will only covers assets that are part of your estate. Bank accounts, life insurance policies, pensions, and your 401(k) pass directly to the person named on your beneficiary designation. If you haven’t already, set up a beneficiary on these accounts now!

Medical Power of Attorney

A Will is one of the key building blocks of an estate plan, but it’s only the first step. A Will has a limited scope and only takes effect upon a person’s death. A comprehensive estate plan also provides for your potential incapacity, such as if you suffer an accident or illness. 

Incapacity planning begins with Medical Power of Attorney—appointing a trusted person who will make healthcare decisions for you. This document gives your partner sole authority on when, where, and what kind of treatment you receive during your incapacity. Your partner might also designate you with Medical Power of Attorney in return.

Estate planning for unmarried couples often involves third-party documents to comply with state and federal regulations. For example, you and your partner might need mutual HIPAA authorizations within your Medical Powers of Attorney to grant each other access to your medical records.

Financial Power of Attorney

Just as you wouldn’t want a court-appointed person handling your medical treatment, you probably don’t want them handling your finances. A Financial Power of Attorney gives your partner the legal right to pay bills, file taxes, and collect your benefits. It can also allow them to sell property, run your business, and handle your investments. Control over your property prevents relatives from occupying or selling your house and leaving your partner homeless.

It’s important to know that in Florida, powers of attorney go into effect IMMEDIATELY. This means that once you sign the document and grant your agent the listed powers, they have the ability to do any of those things listed. The law requires that agents act as fiduciaries, meaning putting the principal’s interests ahead of those of the agent. Choose your agents thoughtfully and carefully.

Living Will

A medical power of attorney gives a partner control over your healthcare, but it doesn’t detail the type of care you want (or don’t want). A Living Will allows you to provide clear instructions about your end-of-life care. For example, you can decide who should be allowed in your hospital room, whether you want certain lifesaving measures, and when to discontinue life support. Writing out your end-of-life wishes while you’re alive and well can provide much-needed help to a partner making these difficult decisions.

Living Trust

Inheritance laws can be especially hard on unmarried couples. Assets passed through a Will must go through probate. Any assets passed through beneficiary designations avoid probate, but they aren’t protected from creditors or lawsuits. Unmarried couples are also unprotected from estate taxes, which can impoverish a surviving partner if their loved one dies suddenly.

To ensure that your partner has a stable financial future, it might be better to place your assets in a Living Trust. Trusts are exempt from probate proceedings, giving your partner immediate access to their inheritance. Assets that remain in a trust are also protected from creditors, legal judgments, and financial predators. There may be some tax benefits as well, though those can only be analyzed in each person’s specific situation.

A Customized Estate Plan Provides Peace of Mind for Unmarried Couples

There’s only one way to ensure that your partner will retain their legal rights to your home and property when you’re no longer around. Schedule a call or email us at with Yolofsky Law and ask about estate planning for unmarried couples. Our legal team can create a personalized estate plan that protects the people you love and the life you worked hard to build.