NJ Estate Planning for Unmarried Partners

nj estate planning

Estate planning is important regardless of your relationship status. Of particular note, however, are couples who are not legally married (or joined through a civil union or domestic partnership) but who reside together and are committed to one another. With no estate plan in place, the state will determine what happens to your property if your partner passes away. Unmarried couples will not be able to inherit from each other or have any say in medical care or end-of-life procedures. Establishing a NJ estate plan is the best way to make sure your partner will have a say in carrying out your wishes after you’re gone.

Writing a will is a good first step for unmarried partners. In a will, you can choose to designate ownership of property or other assets to your significant other. Without a will, these assets will be distributed to your closest living relative(s). If you or your partner have minor children, you can designate a guardian for them to avoid guardianship being awarded to the closest acceptable family member. Along with naming your partner your child’s legal guardian, it is a good idea to include a letter to the court explaining why it is important for your partner to be the child’s guardian. A will can help ensure that your wishes are followed through after you’re gone in order to help protect the life you have built with your companion.

Joint ownership is also a huge factor in protecting your assets. Owning high dollar assets together, like a home or a car, will allow you to enter into joint tenancy with right of survivorship. This means that if one partner dies, the other will automatically own 100% of the property outright. The best way to do this is to make sure both of your names are on the asset’s title documentation, like a car title or the deed to a house. Doing this now will save you from having to go back and change these documents later. Joint ownership can ensure that your partner still has ownership over these assets even if something happens to you.

If you do not want to share ownership of your assets, you will need to make other arrangements to ensure these assets go to your partner when you’re gone. In addition to this, some assets—like bank, investment, and retirement accounts—cannot be designated by a will alone. You will need to fill out a beneficiary designation form, naming your significant other as the intended beneficiary of these assets. A beneficiary form can always be changed or amended later if your circumstances change. It is always important to keep beneficiary forms up to date with changing events in your life because beneficiary designation forms supersede your will.

A living will and durable power of attorney (medical and financial) are crucial documents if you and your beloved are not married. These documents will give your partner authority over your financial and medical decisions in the event that you are unable to make those decisions yourself. If you ever find yourself ill or incapacitated, your partner would have the ability to continue paying your bills and keep the household running. S/he would also be able to make medical decisions on your behalf, thus ensuring that your doctors understand your wishes even if you cannot speak for yourself. To help your partner make these decisions, create a living will to set out your wishes concerning end-of-life care. This will make your desires about your medical care clear.

Without the right estate planning, you could be leaving your partner vulnerable. An estate plan can help you honor your relationship even after you’re gone while also ensuring that your assets are protected. Veitengruber Law can help you create NJ estate plan that will cover all of your concerns. If you are unmarried, you do not want to leave your significant other with the burden of fighting court cases in order to honor your wishes. We will work with you to create an estate plan now so you can rest easy knowing your loved one and your assets will be secure during what will already be a stressful time of life.

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