Unmarried Florida Couples Need Estate Plans

Estate planning is important for everyone but especially so, in the absence of children or a legal spouse, the most common natural heirs when someone passes. For single people, unmarried couples, or couples without children, the absence of a plan or beneficiary designations can lead to unintended consequences, the probate process, and protracted litigation. 

A famous case is the estate of the musician Prince, who died without a will. The lack of a basic estate plan in Florida can result in the loss of financial power and financial decision-making for your unmarried partner or intended beneficiary along with denied or delayed inheritance of important financial assets such as life insurance, investment accounts, bank accounts, real estate, retirement accounts, etc.

Individuals who utilize estate planning legal documents determine the manner in which assets are distributed and account for contingencies. For example, for married people, when a husband dies, assets generally go to his wife, but if she dies without children, the assets could go to her extended family. For single people or unmarried people, one’s extended family is also often the default beneficiary. Additionally, if minor children are involved, estate plans help to determine who cares for them if their parents pass away, whether they were married or not.

Estate planning documents are tools to help plan for the passing of assets or managing incapacitation and medical decisions needed due to injury or illness. Thinking about things ahead of time saves loved ones from additional stress around medical care and healthcare decisions and prevents the dissipation of estate assets through estate taxes, legal fees, and court costs.

At the core of any estate planning tool is a will and durable power of attorney. Choosing the person to designate will demand consideration of both character and temperament. With married individuals, the surviving spouse is typically the default rule; however, it is imperative, you put this in writing. Ithe absence of marriage, long-term unmarried couples may be without recourse if they do not make an estate plan. In the case of incapacitation, the healthcare surrogate will allow someone chosen in advance to make medical treatment decisions instead of a spouse or sibling who may not be preferred for any number of reasons. Additionally, durable powers of attorney generally terminate upon death, so a will or trust must be in place to fully protect everyone involved after the person passes.

If an individual wishes to help loved ones during life and after death, consulting a qualified estate planning attorney may help them understand their options. Our experienced lawyers can assist in planning for all possible contingencies and aspects of estate planning. Contact us today!

This article was originally published in June 2021 but has been updated for accuracy and freshness.