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Unmarried Partners

Couples who are married enjoy many legal rights which are often taken for granted.  For example, if a husband dies without having executed a will, the laws of intestacy determine what shares of his estate are to be shared by his wife and children and who has first choice to serve as executor of his estate.  If the wife becomes disabled, the law grants to the husband the first opportunity to serve as guardian.

But for couples who choose to forego the institution of marriage, no such rights are afforded under law.  An unmarried partner is treated as a stranger to the decedent, and will have no legal entitlement to share in the decedent’s estate or to serve as executor or guardian without specific legal documents in place.  Moreover, an unmarried partner has no intrinsic right to participate in making medical decisions for their ailing partner.

It is critical for adults who are legally unmarried to affirmatively create legal documents to secure the rights and privileges that the law does not automatically provide. These documents include an appropriate health care power of attorney, a living will, and a durable power of attorney.  And to maximize the opportunity for tax planning, creditor protection, and the management of inheritances, a will and often a revocable living trust are essential.

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