Estate Planning 101 for Valentine’s Day Lovebirds: Securing Your Partner’s Future

Estate planning might not be the most romantic topic of discussion on Valentine’s Day. However, for lovebirds committed to each other’s well-being, ensuring a secure future for their partner should be a priority. Whether married or unmarried, navigating the intricacies of wills, trusts, and estate planning is essential for safeguarding your loved one’s interests. Read on and discover the importance of estate planning for couples, including the unique challenges that unmarried partners may encounter.    

There are three documents that everyone should have regardless of their age or wealth:  a Living Will, a Power of Attorney, and a Will.

Living Will

A Living Will, also known as an Advance Directive, empowers individuals to express their medical treatment preferences when they are incapacitated and cannot communicate their wishes. Proxy directives designate a health care representative, while instruction directives detail treatment wishes. Choosing a trusted proxy is crucial, excluding physicians to avoid conflicts of interest. Decisions on life-sustaining treatment and organ donation are addressed. Validating the Living Will requires signatures from witnesses or a notary. Without one, costly court proceedings and family disagreements may arise, potentially leading to unwanted treatment. Regarding nursing home planning, Medicaid eligibility involves asset planning, necessitating legal advice to avoid disqualification. Transferring assets requires caution due to a five-year look-back period, with exceptions like transfers to spouses or disabled children. Retaining a life estate can mitigate risks when transferring property. Professional guidance ensures informed decision-making, safeguarding well-being and financial security in later stages of life.

Power of Attorney (“POA”)

A Power of Attorney is a vital legal document granting someone authority over your financial affairs. There are two main types: General and Limited. A Limited POA deals with specific assets, while a General POA encompasses all financial matters, from real estate to bank accounts and business interests. POAs can also take different forms: Lapsing, Springing, and Durable. A Lapsing POA ends upon disability, a Springing POA activates upon incapacity but requires a doctor’s certification or court order in order to use it, and a Durable POA is effective as soon as it is signed and remains effective even after incapacity, and does not require a doctor’s affidavit or court order to use, and is therefore, the most recommended choice.

Choosing an attorney-in-fact for the POA requires trust in the appointed individual, and it’s wise to inform them of its existence without necessarily providing immediate access because the POA document cannot be used unless it is in the attorney-in-fact’s possession. Execution of a POA requires notarization by an attorney or notary. Without a POA, a loved one will need to obtain guardianship through legal proceedings if you become incapacitated, which can be time-consuming and expensive, costing several thousand dollars. Even if married, a POA is essential as spouses may encounter limitations in managing certain assets without one.

Storing the original POA in a secure location is vital, especially for property transactions requiring its attachment to deeds. While copies suffice for most situations, access to the original may be necessary for specific transactions. Avoid storing it in a safe deposit box unless the representative has access.

In essence, a well-prepared POA ensures someone you trust can manage your financial affairs efficiently if you're unable to do so, providing peace of mind and avoiding costly legal proceedings.

Establishing a Foundation of Security

Estate planning serves as the cornerstone for establishing a secure future for your partner. It goes beyond simply drafting a will; it involves comprehensive strategies aimed at protecting assets, minimizing taxes, and ensuring your loved one’s financial stability in the event of your passing. For lovebirds deeply invested in each other’s happiness and well-being, taking proactive steps to plan for the unexpected is an expression of care and commitment.

The Importance of Wills and Trusts

Drafting a will is the first step in estate planning. It allows you to specify how you want your assets distributed upon your death. For couples, a will is crucial for ensuring that your partner receives their rightful share of your estate. Without a will, state laws will dictate the distribution of assets, potentially leaving your partner vulnerable to financial insecurity.

In addition to wills, establishing trusts can provide added protection and flexibility. Trusts allow you to transfer assets to your partner while retaining control over how those assets are managed and distributed. This is particularly beneficial for unmarried couples, as it can help overcome legal hurdles and ensure that your partner is provided for according to your wishes.

Challenges for Unmarried Couples

Unmarried couples face unique challenges when it comes to estate planning. Unlike married couples, they do not benefit from certain legal protections and automatic inheritance rights. Without proper planning, unmarried partners may find themselves excluded from important decision-making processes and denied access to assets, even if they have been in a long-term committed relationship.

Moreover, the absence of a legally recognized relationship can complicate matters such as healthcare decision-making and inheritance rights. Without clear documentation outlining their intentions, unmarried partners may encounter resistance from family members or legal authorities, further underscoring the importance of proactive estate planning.

Estate planning is not just about preparing for the inevitable; it’s about affirming your commitment to your partner and ensuring their security and well-being long into the future. For lovebirds, taking the time to navigate the complexities of wills, trusts, and estate planning is a tangible expression of love and devotion. By addressing these matters proactively, couples can overcome challenges, protect their assets, and pave the way for a future filled with peace of mind and security.


Need to learn more on Living Wills, Power of Attorney, Wills or legal assistance in estate planning on Valentine’s Day and beyond? Contact Diane Hoagland and Michelle Kerrigan or call us at 732-545-4717.