Many couples in New York state choose to remain unmarried for a variety of reasons. They might have financial or personal reasons not to get legally married. Those who have children from a previous marriage or relationship may fear that a new marriage might affect the inheritance of their children. However, those are matters that can be addressed in trusts, and unmarried couples are advised to make all their wishes known by executing estate planning documents.
Unmarried couples do not have similar legal rights as those of married spouses. Without legal documents, one partner of an unmarried couple will have no statutory priority that will allow him or her to serve as executor or personal representative of the other partner’s estate. He or she will also have no statutory rights to inheritance from the significant other.
Furthermore, one party will have no say in the disposition of the partner’s remains in the event of death. Also, if one party in the relationship becomes incapacitated, the other partner will have no right to make medical or financial decisions on behalf of the significant other without documents showing that party’s powers of attorney designation. Not only can adequately documented estate planning make the wishes of the testator clear, but it might also prevent unpleasant contention or arguments with family members of the deceased or incapacitated significant other.
Many unmarried couples find it difficult to discuss estate planning, even after years of being together. In such cases, an experienced New York estate planning attorney can be an invaluable asset. A lawyer can explain why wills and trusts are essential, even for unmarried couples, and provide the necessary support and guidance along every step of the way.