Estate Planning for Unmarried Couples in North Carolina
There are thousands of couples living together in North Carolina who are not married. Relationships may be just a year old or spanning a few decades. How can unmarried couples protect their rights in the event their partner becomes incapacitated or passes away? Long-term relationships, regardless of marital status, likely involve purchasing real property, joint assets, debt, illnesses, and other major life events. Outside of marriage, how can cohabiting adults plan their estate?
Complicated issues develop when a partner in a non-married couple becomes ill and hospitalized and they have not established an estate plan. If they become incapacitated, the partner in good health has no marital rights to make important medical decisions on their loved one’s behalf. Also, the well partner will not be granted the same visitation rights as the ill partner’s family members are entitled. To avoid situations like this from happening, couples can meet with a North Carolina estate planning attorney to draft health care and general powers of attorney
, as well as forms authorizing disclosure of health care information. Couples can use powers of attorney to give each other authority over medical decisions, as well as financial and other matters.
Purchasing real property requires the buyers to choose how they will hold title. How do you want to hold title when purchasing a home as an unmarried couple? There are several ways to hold title: sole ownership by one partner, tenants in common, and joint tenancy with right of survivorship. Joint tenancy is a way for couples to avoid probate when one partner dies, however, there are potential disadvantages of joint tenancy
. You could also ask an estate planning attorney about preparing a joint ownership agreement.
A North Carolina estate planning attorney can also ensure that all proper documents are executed for designating beneficiaries
of retirement accounts. Depending on your needs as a couple, a lawyer can also draft a domestic partnership agreement, which can designate how assets would be divided should your relationship come to an end.
Much more so than married couples, unmarried couples should be concerned about protecting each other legally. Working with a lawyer to implement the tools mentioned above can help couples rest assured that their rights and assets are protected.