If a couple decides not to, will not or cannot get married, but each wants to protect the other, they must be proactive. Each person in the relationship must:
- Execute Wills naming each other as Personal Representative and beneficiary of your estate;
- Execute General Powers of Attorney for each other to manage finances if one becomes disabled;
- Execute Medical Powers of Attorney for each other to have access to physicians, medical records and make medical decisions, if one becomes sick or disabled (this is especially important with the new privacy laws);
- If you own property together, make sure both your names are on the title and that it is held in JOINT TENANCY and not tenancy in common. If held in common, execute a new deed transferring the ownership to joint tenancy;
- If you have reason for only one of you to be on the title, but want your partner to have the home after your death, you can execute a deed, passing title to that person, that you hold with your other legal documents and does not get recorded until your death. After your death your Personal Representative will record the deed and the house (or any other real estate you have and deed the same way) will pass to your partner, avoiding probate and preventing the real estate from passing to a non- intentioned family member;
- Execute a property ownership agreement wherein the couple delineates what property each gets if they split up and who’s responsible for what.
- Finally, and sometimes, most importantly, each, while healthy, should tell any family members who might not be happy with these documents what your intentions are, why you’re doing what you’re doing and ask they respect your decision and not interfere.
I promise you, it can and does happen.