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27March 20

Estate Planning With Unmarried Partners

It’s more common nowadays for couples to pair off without actually getting married. But marriage allows couples a streamlined approach to distributing their assets when they die. Those who are married may not even need a specific estate plan in place. Their assets would simply go to their spouse. Estate planning with unmarried partners, on the other hand, can be a little trickier. In this article, we’ll take a look at estate planning for unmarried partners.

Estate Planning Matters More to Unmarried Partners

Those who don’t prepare an estate plan have no control over how their assets are distributed. When you die without a will, your assets are distributed according to what is called intestate succession. Typically, most of your assets will pass to a current spouse while the rest of your assets will be distributed to your children, parents, siblings, or whoever else is a blood relative.


Additionally, those who want to assign a health care proxy or a financial power of attorney to someone close to them will need to specify this if they are unmarried.


For those who aren’t married, there is an absence in the law to effectively provide for life partners creates a problem. They require more detailed estate plans to ensure that their partners are adequately provided for.


This can be accomplished by drafting a legally valid will. 


While estate plans for unmarried couples are not significantly different than estate plans for married couples, it is more important that an unmarried couple has an estate plan in place since the default means of distributing assets do not necessarily accommodate unmarried couples.

Owning Assets Together

One of the ways to ensure that certain assets pass directly to your life partner is by owning these assets together. Of course, this won’t necessarily work for all assets, but large assets like real estate, vehicles, and certain luxury items can be owned together. Additionally, trusts can be set up for your spouse or dependants that are made payable directly upon your death.


You will need to put both of your names on the official title. But owning assets together is a great way to ensure those assets pass automatically to your loved one. If you or your partner brought a home into the partnership, you can re-title it to avoid probate.

Designating Beneficiaries for Bank Accounts and More

Just because your life partner lives with you doesn’t mean that they’ll necessarily want to share ownership of all your assets. You may have separate bank accounts and a joint bank account. Retirement accounts can’t always be shared. You’ll need another way to ensure that these assets make it directly to your partner if you should die.

Bank accounts, investment accounts, and retirement accounts can be assigned beneficiaries in the event of your death. They would not pass through your will. You simply need to designate a beneficiary by requesting a beneficiary designation form from the account’s custodian. In the case of a bank account, you would ask the bank for the form to assign a beneficiary.

Living Wills and Durable Power of Attorney

You will need documents for assigning durable power of attorney to your partner. This includes the ability to make health care decisions on your behalf as well as the ability to manage your finances if you should remain alive but unable to do so yourself.

Talk to an Attorney Concerning Your Estate Plan

If you have any questions concerning estate planning with unmarried partners, call the California estate planning attorneys at Herbert Law Office today to learn more about how we can help. 


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