This is an article from Hunter Law Office (www.hunterlawoffice.net) in Fishers, Indiana, that we thought others may find helpful.
Ward and June Cleaver are no longer the symbol of the American family. More adults are deciding to not marry at all and choose to live together as a family without marriage. While there is nothing wrong with this choice, the need for these couples to do estate planning is essential so that the couple’s wishes at the end of life can be fulfilled.
Estate planning means that you created a set of directions regarding the distribution of all of the assets that you own at the time of your death. These types of plans are equipped with effortless amendment procedures designed to flex with the changes in your life.
Even if you do not have a will, everyone in the United States has an estate plan. Each state has laws regarding how assets/property is to be distributed upon a person’s death when they do not have a will. When a person dies without a will, that person is said to have died intestate. These Laws of Intestacy divide up assets of the deceased person with no thought for family dynamics. This can be extremely devastating if there is an unmarried couple. For example, in some states, the assets of an unmarried person who has no living children go to the surviving parents of the deceased. Generally speaking, the surviving partner would get nothing.
Having a will allows you to decide what you would like to have done with your property. It protects the surviving partner by allowing assets to pass to them as you would have wished rather than having the State decide. A will must go through probate, which is the court process required in most cases for disposing and transferring your assets. This process can be lengthy, costly and is always open to contest.
Another option is a Revocable Living Trust. You are the creator of the trust and the Trustee of the trust. You decide what assets you would like in the trust and you have complete power over how those assets are handled during your life. A Revocable Living Trust allows you to create detailed instructions of who gets the assets, when they get them, what specific asset it being passed, and how it is to be used. You decide who the Beneficiaries are and what they are entitled to receive. If your surviving partner were named the beneficiary, then that person would receive everything that you planned for him to receive through the trust.
Some people believe that other family members will “know” what to do with their stuff and would never think that they would not “give” it to the surviving partner instead of keeping it because they received it by the State. That could happen, but are you willing to take the chance?