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Unmarried Couples: Here’s Why You Need an Estate Plan

Unmarried Couples: Here’s Why You Need an Estate Plan

Wedding rings and white roses

Failing to plan an estate proactively can be disastrous for unmarried couples. Without an estate plan that specifies who gets what in the event of death or incapacity, the decedent’s wishes are likely to be ignored. The partner could receive nothing—or everything.

With a properly organized estate plan, an unmarried partner can leave his or her estate to the surviving partner in the event of death. The unmarried partner can also give the other partner the authority to make health care, financial, and other legal decisions on his or her behalf.

What Is an Estate Plan?

An estate plan is a set of documents that guide the estate owner’s decisions about what happens to all his or her assets in the event of death or incapacitation. If the estate owner is unmarried, an estate plan would ensure the assets left behind go to the surviving partner.

Estate Planning Documents and How They Can Help Unmarried Couples


 A Will provides the opportunity for unmarried couples to leave behind specific instructions about how they want their assets distributed after their death. An estate planning and probate lawyer can explain a variety of legal matters to parties like the estate executor or beneficiary. The lawyer may, for instance, review the Will to make sure the estate owner wasn’t coerced to draft or sign it. 

Health Care Power of Attorney

With a health care power of attorney, an unmarried partner can make legal medical care decisions about the other.  

Durable Power of Attorney

This document allows an unmarried partner to give the other partner the power to act on his or her behalf in the event of incapacitation and inability to make financial and legal decisions. If the unmarried partner becomes incapacitated without a durable power of attorney, the court will determine what happens to his or her assets.


Trusts provide unmarried couples with an opportunity to avoid probate and certain taxes when making bequests. A trust can either be a living or testamentary trust. A living trust is established while the individual is still alive, whereas a testamentary trust only comes into effect once the estate owner dies.

Trust Agreement

Through a trust agreement, unmarried couples can outline the purpose of a trust they have created and name an individual who will serve as a trustee.

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