Estate Planning for Unmarried Partners
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Estate Planning for Unmarried Partners

When you have a life partner but with no marriage (or domestic or civil partnership) certificate, planning your estate is a requirement. Without one, neither one of you are going to inherit from one another—and neither one of you is going to have a word concerning the other’s end of life medical care.

If you pass away without a will that is valid, state law is going to dictate where your exclusively owned property goes following your passing, and it not going to go to an unmarried partner. Rather, when you have no children, your closest family members, including your parents, would possibly inherit. Likewise, only your spouse or an individual you’ve named in a valid power of attorney is permitted in making medical decisions on your behalf should you become incapacitated. Luckily, you can devise the legal documentation you require on your own.

Create Your Wills

When have assets you care about, you need to write a will, so you are able to leave your property to the inheritors of your choosing: your partner, friends, charitable associations. If you do not create a will and don’t have children, a lot of what you’re leave behind is going to likely go to your parents and/or siblings, according to your state’s laws. (Each state has intestacy laws, in which lists the relatives that are going to inherit from someone that passes away without a will.)

If you have minor children, the other big reason for creating a will is to designate a guardian for them. The guardian would bring up the children should neither parent was able to so. In that case, the court will appoint an individual as their guardian. Unless there were a significant issue with the individuals the parents designated in their wills, that is who the court is going to appoint.

If each of you are the legal parents of the children, then you are going to want to designate another individual as personal guardian, since a guardian won’t be required unless each of the parents are unavailable. If only one of you is a legal parent, designate the other partner as their guardian. You might also want to pen a letter, alongside your will, explaining to the court why it’s critical for your partner to become the children’s guardian. But be mindful that if there’s another legal parent in the picture, that individual would most likely take over bringing up the children.

Creating a simple will is not hard or costly. A lot of people are comfortable doing it on their own, using an online app or computer software.

You are also able leave assets to each other using a living trust; the trust carries out the same function as a will but lets the living partner bypass the hassle and cost of probate. A lot of people don’t create their living trust until they reach middle-aged or older.

Owning Assets Together

Another way to be sure that neither of you is excluded following the other passing away is to own expensive items, like houses and vehicles, with one another in joint tenancy with rights of survivorship. That way, if one of you passes away, the living partner is automatically 100% owner of the property.

In order for this to happen, you are going to need to put each of your names on the asset’s official title paperwork—for instance, your car’s title or your house’s deed.

Name Beneficiaries for Financial Institution and Other Accounts

You and your partner might not want to share ownership of each of your assets, for many reasons. Additionally, retirement accounts cannot be shared. So you are going to most likely need other ways to be sure assets you own solely in your name go to your partner following your passing.

Some of these invaluable assets— financial institution, investment, and retirement accounts—might not move through your will. All you need to do to leave them to the individual of your choosing is to request for a beneficiary designation form from the financial institution or account custodian and designate the individual you want to inherit the assets.

It’s simple and is very inexpensive. If you change your mind later, you can just fill out and send in another form, naming a different person as beneficiary.

Create Living Wills and Durable Powers of Attorney

You are required to have these documents to allow your partner the authority over financial and medical decision making, in case it’s ever required for them to intervene and make decisions for you.

Utilize a durable power of attorney (DPOA) for finances to grant each other authority over your assets. This can be a huge benefit if either of you is ever unexpectedly hit by an ailment or injury. You might require fast access to your partner’s banking account for paying the mortgage, for instance. Devoid of a DPOA for financial reasons, you would need to go to court and prove that your partner was debilitated and that you should have control over their assets.

Create durable powers of attorney for health care to grant each other the permission to make medical decisions for the other, should they ever be unable to make them their own. Along with the DPOA, create a living will (medical directive), which is going specify your wishes for end-of-life health care in as much detail of your choosing. Your health care team must adhere to your wishes, and putting them down in documentation lets your partner know exactly what you want as well.


  1. Mary Randolph, J. D. (2020, August 11). Estate planning for unmarried partners. Retrieved April 20, 2022, from

Estate Planning Attorney Arizona

There’s nothing better than the peace of mind you will have knowing you’ve protected your family at a time when they need it most. Let us help. Schedule a consultation or contact Ogborne Law, PLC of Arizona today.

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