Unmarried cohabiting couples face several challenges when it comes to healthcare and estate matters. Unmarried cohabiting couples with children face even more challenges.
Providing for a Partner upon Death. Unmarried partners do not have inheritance rights under intestacy laws. Without a proper estate plan, if a family home is in one partner’s name and they die, the home may pass on to the decedent’s surviving family. Update beneficiary designations for retirement and other accounts to ensure the partner’s receipt of assets upon the account holder’s death.
Healthcare and finances. Should one partner become incapacitated, the other partner may not be able to make critical financial or medical decisions on their behalf—unless proper advance directives and powers of attorney are in place.
Relationship ends. Consider the consequences of a break-up. Married couples who divorce have certain legal rights under North Carolina law, such as equitable distribution of marital property, possible alimony payments, and more, but unmarried couple have no such rights (including same-sex couples legally married in another state). Property ownership agreements can outline the disposition of assets in the event of the end of the relationship. Upon separation, unmarried co-parenting couples may face complications regarding custody and child support arrangements, which can be at least partially managed in advance with a domestic partnership agreement.
Without the legal protections that marriage offers, couples should create and annually review an estate plan to ensure both partners’ needs are met and that children are provided for in the event of one or both parents’ deaths.