Wednesday, October 4, 2017

How Life Partners Can Inadvertently Disinherit Each Other

“You have to be vigilant to make sure assets will pass to the other when one of you dies,” Marcia Passos Duffy writes in Bankrate.com, referring to unmarried couples living together. “When life partners don’t tie the knot,” Duffy adds, “they don’t enjoy the financial advantages that come with marriage.”
  • Name each other as beneficiaries on pensions, retirement accounts, and insurance policies. Qualified plans must now provide survivor benefits to same-sex spouses.  But some retirement and pension accounts have different rules about naming non-family beneficiaries.
  • Prepare wills. Otherwise, assets can pass, by default to a blood family member under intestacy laws of your state of residence.
  • Be careful about the titling of the home. If both partners have contributed equally, title the home in both names as joint tenants with right of survivorship; if only one partner has bought the home, use your will or possibly a revocable living trust to ensure that the surviving partner can remain in the home.
  • Name each other in durable power of attorney and healthcare power of attorney documents and visitation authorizations. A life partner could be shut out of end-of-life decisions if he or she is not designated as an agent to act on your behalf.
  • Prepare guardianship arrangements. If there are children involved and the couple wants the survivor to have full legal parental rights, guardianship language in a will is necessary.  This is especially true in a same-sex relationship if one party has no blood relationship with the child and such party has not legally adopted the child. The person listed as guardian in the parent’s will is given the first priority in determining who should be the child’s guardian under Indiana law.
  • Prepare a domestic partnership agreement. This is similar to a pre-nuptial agreement used by traditional couples, setting up a process for dividing property in the event of a separation or end to the relationship.

At Geyer Law, our attorneys often explain that estate planning “tools” generally fall into two categories: lifetime documents governing events during life, and post-life documents governing what happens after death. At our Indianapolis estate planning and elder law firm, we know that people face changing circumstances and make ongoing decisions that have legal ramifications. We serve as a resource to clients, combining clear and concise legal recommendations with responsiveness and compassion.

Given proper preparation and legal guidance, it should never happen that life partners inadvertently disinherit each other!
- by Rebecca W. Geyer

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