The state of New York provides easy transfer of assets for legally married couples and civil unions upon one spouse’s death. No such protections exist for unmarried couples. Without a detailed estate plan, the deceased’s belongings will automatically go to their next living blood relative.
Benefits of an estate plan
Unmarried couples don’t have any right to the other’s assets, regardless of how long they’ve lived together or dated. New York does not recognize common law marriages created within the state. Creating an estate plan is the only way to ensure that the surviving member of an unmarried couple is taken care of.
Estate plans also give you control over your end-of-life care. If you want your partner to make decisions on your behalf when the time comes, it’s crucial to outline that in your estate plan.
Steps to protect your loved one
When two individuals share ownership of assets such as cars, bank accounts, and houses, it is a joint account. These joint accounts will give the couple equal ownership over the asset, allowing the surviving partner to inherit it automatically.
When executing your estate plan, there is always a risk of legal challenges or delays in probate court. Unmarried couples can establish rights of survivorship with documents such as co-ownership or cohabitation agreements. These documents will also make it easier to split things during a separation.
Additional steps to take
Unmarried couples should name each other in their estate planning documents, such as wills and trusts. They also will call the other as a beneficiary of life insurance policies or similar benefit plans.
Discussing your estate plan with your loved ones while alive is also essential. Being transparent with your estate plan can ease confusion during your death.