Life partners who do not have a marriage certificate but hope to leave assets to each other should take special care to put a will in place. Without a will, you risk not inheriting from each other—or even making medical decisions for each other in an emergency. Here is the information you need to put your plans in place.
No Will? Intestate Succession Takes Over
Each state has laws of intestate succession that govern the distribution of assets to heirs when there is no will. As NOLO explains:
If you die without a valid will, state law will dictate where your solely owned property goes after your death, and it won’t go to an unmarried partner. Instead, if you have no children, your closest relatives, including your parents, would inherit. Similarly, only your spouse or someone you’ve appointed in a valid power of attorney is allowed to make medical decisions on your behalf if you’re incapacitated.
If you’re got some assets you care about, you should write a will, so you can leave your property to the recipients you choose: your partner, friends, charitable organizations. If you don’t write a will and do not have children, much of what you leave behind will likely go to your parents or siblings, under your state’s laws.
Create a Will and Appoint an Executor
Unless your assets are complex, with some legal assistance, you’ll find reasonably straightforward to write your will—an a big relief to have done so. Don’t forget to think comprehensively about other documentation it will be helpful to simultaneously address, such as a health care power of attorney and durable power of attorney.
The person you designate to administer your will and other affairs when you die is typically referred to as an executor. Though often a relative, the executor of your will can be anyone who is prepared to carry out the associated fiduciary responsibilities. Before naming an executor, you may find it helpful to review the duties typically involved in the role, and consider who you know who has the ability and time to serve in this capacity. Ideally, you will want your designee to have strong people skills, especially if you anticipate any sensitive issues or conflicts to navigate.
Consider an executor bond which can be reassuring to everyone involved. Sometimes these bonds are even specifically requested by probate courts. Executors are fiduciaries—they are obligated to act in the best interest of the beneficiaries. An executor bond (sometimes also referred to as a probate or estate bond) is a type of fiduciary bond—it guarantees the faithful performance of the executor in accordance with the law. Colonial Surety Company makes it quick and easy to get an executor bond online. Just get a quote online, fill in essential information, enter a payment method and download or print the bond: Executor Bond Here.
Young Children? Special Needs?
Another important consideration when creating a will is to put plans in place for the care of young children, in case the unthinkable occurs. Importantly, designate a guardian. NOLO points out:
If you have young children, the other big reason for writing wills is to name a guardian for them. The guardian would raise the children if neither parent were able to. In that situation, the court would appoint someone as guardian. Unless there were a serious problem with the person the parents named in their wills, that’s who the court would appoint.
In the event that you have loved ones with special needs, you may want to go a step beyond a will and consider establishing a trust to ensure they will be cared for upon your death.
Keep in mind that life insurance policies and retirement accounts are examples of assets passed outside of wills. Accordingly, the beneficiaries you name on these assets will receive them when you die. That’s why it is important to keep them up to date—and inform your executor about them for good measure, making sure information about accessing these assets is easily available too. NOLO also reminds us:
Another way to make sure that neither of you is left out in the cold after the other dies is to own big-ticket items, such as houses and cars, together in joint tenancy with right of survivorship. That way, when one of you dies, the survivor automatically owns 100% of the property.
To do this, you’ll need to put both of your names on the asset’s official title document—for example, your car’s certificate of title or the deed to your house.
Good To Know: Help for Estate Lawyers
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