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Estate planning and unmarried couples

There are numerous benefits to marriage in terms of estate planning. In a traditional marriage, where both parents share their children, one of those benefits is the fact the children will typically receive the family estate eventually, after the final parent dies. However, this will not necessarily be the case if one parent is a stepparent, with a family of his or her own. This makes for an interesting estate planning dilemma, but fortunately there is a solution.

In order to make sure that their children receive the full amount of their inheritance, some Oklahoma residents prefer stay in a long-term relationship rather than get remarried. This can serve to protect their estates for their children, so that the new spouse's family does not dilute their children's inheritances. However, this situation leaves unmarried couples wondering how they can provide for a long-term partner after death, but still make sure their children get the full benefit of the estate following the surviving partner's eventual death.

One way unmarried couples can include their partner in their estate plans is to create what is referred to as a "life estate." A life estate allows unmarried Oklahoma residents to leave a shared residence or home, for example, to a long-term romantic partner temporarily. The life estate allows the long-term partner to continue living in the residence until he or she passes away or needs to move into a nursing facility. Only then will the heirs to the property get to inherit it. A life estate agreement can also provide money to pay for the continued maintenance of the home and other expenses.

A life estate is not the appropriate solution for every unmarried couple, but there are other estate planning fixes that unmarried Oklahoma couples can employ to ensure that their significant others are well taken care of following their deaths. A detailed review of one's financial, family and life situation will reveal the most suitable strategies to fit one's needs. Ultimately, there is an estate planning solution to fit just about every dilemma one encounters. 

Source: Chicago Tribune, "Retirement: Estate planning for unmarried couples", Sandra Block, April 8, 2015

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