With the number of couples choosing to forgo marriage increasing, estate planning has become even more important. Marriage provides for the automatic attachment of statutory rights to your partner’s estate, however, in the absence of a marriage, these statutory rights do not attach. Furthermore, Indiana no longer recognizes common law marriage, stripping cohabitation of any rights. If you wish for your assets to pass to your non-marital partner, you need to execute an estate plan to that effect.
In Indiana, if you die without a will, your assets will be distributed in accordance with intestate succession laws. Under the laws of intestacy, your assets will be directed to your closest family members, in statutorily predetermined shares, not to the person with whom you are cohabiting. In order to avoid this distribution, you need to execute a valid Last Will and Testament leaving assets to your partner and you need to designate your partner as the beneficiary on your non-probate assets (i.e., life insurance policies, brokerage accounts, retirement accounts).
As important as leaving your assets to your partner is, it is arguably more important that you appoint your partner as your financial power of attorney and health care representative, if you want your partner to be able to make financial and health care decisions on your behalf. Without these designations, your partner may be left out of making important decisions about your healthcare and could potentially be denied visitation at the hospital. Additionally, without explicit permission, there is no presumption that your non-marital partner can make financial decisions on your behalf, even if your partner had previously been assisting you in this sort of decision making.
Because unmarried partners do not have the same legal protections that married couples have, it is especially important that you commemorate, in writing, the rights you wish to give to your partner. For more information, or if you would like to create your estate plan, please contact May Oberfell Lorber’s estate planning department, 574-243-4100.
This article is for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as legal advice.
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