Welcome to unwedded bliss! If you and your romantic partner have taken the plunge and moved in together, you've joined about half of the adult population in the United States. While once something highly unusual, cohabitation between unmarried couples, with or without children, has become the norm.
Unfortunately, there are a few complications that go along with the freer lifestyle of living together without a wedding certificate -- especially when it comes to estate planning and probate law. Here's why you need a good family law or probate attorney:
1. You need to make certain that your partner's interest in your property -- personal or real estate -- is protected. You have a few options, depending on your situation. If you live in a rent controlled apartment, for example, you want to find out what local laws allow you to pass on that gem of an apartment to your partner without the rent tripling.
If you live in a house, you and your partner need to protect each other's interests. A survivorship deed might be right for your needs if you both intend the other to inherit. If you have unequal shares in the property and want it divided in the estate, a tenancy-in-common might be more useful.
2. You need paperwork that will give you the right to handle your partner's medical decisions and be there by his or her side if something terrible happens. Do not assume, even in this day and age, that the hospital will accommodate you just because you've been together for a decade or longer.
Hospitals are lawsuit-sensitive and have to give superior rights to anyone with a superior claim to take over the medical decisions of someone who is incapacitated. If you don't have papers granting you that right, your partner's closest blood relatives automatically have a greater say-so than you. That could plunge you into a tumultuous legal battle and even get you thrown out of your partner's hospital room if his or her family happens to dislike you.
3. You both need wills. Even if you're young and there are no health problems foreseen, an accident could happen. Put your partner in charge -- legally -- of what happens to both your personal items and any property you have of real value. That will make it a lot easier to avoid a legal drama with unhappy blood-related family. Powers of attorney for finances and medical care are both necessary components of a good will.
4. Don't forget to include information about how you want your earthly remains handled -- otherwise your relatives may spirit your body back to your hometown where the whole family is buried, even though you wanted a cremation and wanted your partner in charge of what happened afterward to the remains. That may be emotionally devastating to your partner at a time when he or she is least equipped to handle a fight.
A good probate attorney is necessary to help protect not only your property and real estate, but your body and your personal wishes after you're gone as well. For more information, make an appointment with a probate attorney today.