For the Love of Your Partner . . . Plan Now
February 20, 2008
Times have changed, and many committed couples are now choosing to delay marriage, sometimes indefinitely. Although they are not married, they present themselves as a married couple would. They live together. They raise children together. They share their assets and their debts. While this arrangement may allow the happy couple to live in bliss while each partner is alive and well, trouble begins when one or both of the partners lose their competency or pass away. Your partner, which is essentially a boyfriend or a girlfriend, does not have the same legal rights as would your husband or wife. In fact, their legal rights are usually no more than a stranger would have. Fortunately, with proper planning, you can provide your partner with appropriate legal rights even if you are not married.
The first potential issue to be addressed is incapacity. If you lose your capacity, your partner will have no power to handle your financial affairs unless you have executed a valid Durable Power of Attorney. A Durable Power of Attorney is a document in which you designate someone to make financial decisions for you. At a minimum, naming your partner in this document should allow your partner to pay bills, manage real property and other assets, and deal with government agencies.
Similarly, if you lose your capacity, your partner will have no power to make medical decisions for you unless you have executed a valid Health Care Proxy. A Health Care Proxy is a document in which you designate someone to make health care decisions for you in the event that you are incapacitated and unable to make your own health care decisions. Living will language is normally included within the Health Care Proxy. This language sets forth your end-of-life decisions and usually states that you do not want extraordinary medical procedures used to keep you alive when there is no likelihood that you will recover.
Further, if you have not properly planned your estate and you pass away, you may unintentionally disinherit your partner. ...
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by: Gina M. Barry, Esq.