Estate Planning for Unmarried Partners

You have a close personal relationship with another person, but you are not married. Therefore, only a written estate plan can ensure that your partner will be provided for upon your death.  For estate planning purposes, Michigan only recognizes licensed marriages; it does not recognize "common law" marriages, or any other form of legal relationship.

You Have Minor Children

You and your partner have minor children, so the focus of your estate plan is to ensure that they are cared for upon your death or incapacity.  If your children are the progeny of your current relationship, then you and your partner must jointly select a guardian to care for them, and a trustee to manage their inheritance.  On the other hand, if your children are the progeny of a previous relationship, then careful planning is required to ensure that each child receives an inheritance, while also providing for your current partner.  In either case, two types of estate plans may be used to achieve your goals:

  • Primary Estate Plan is the lowest cost option to provide appoint a guardian and trustee for your children, to appoint persons to manage your affairs in the event of incapacity, and provide for detailed instructions concerning distribution of your property.
  • Living Trust Plan may be used to appoint a guardian and trustee for your children, appoint a trustee or other fiduciary to manage your affairs upon incapacity, and allows for even more flexible distribution instructions.  A Living Trust Plan also avoids probate proceedings.   

You Have Adult Children

You and your partner have adult children, so you may simply want to ensure that your children receive your property in equal shares without probate proceedings.  If so, a Probate Avoidance Plan is exactly what you need.  This type of plan allows you and your partner to maintain complete control of your property for life, followed by distribution of assets to your children without probate. 

 

On the other hand, if your goal is to appoint a person to manage your affairs if you become incapacitated, and then distribute your property to your children or other beneficiaries without probate proceedings, then a Living Trust Plan would meet your objectives.  

 

Finally, if you are not concerned about probate costs, and you want to minimize your estate planning fees, then a Primary Estate Plan is a perfect solution to achieve numerous estate planning goals.  

You Have No Children

Since you and your partner do not have children, you have several estate planning options available to you.  First, if you simply want to direct your assets to a limited number of beneficiaries, and avoid probate, then you should consider a Probate Avoidance Plan

 

Your second option is use a Living Trust Plan to appoint a trustee to care for you during your lifetime, and then distribute your assets post-death. A Living Trust Plan allows for more complex distribution instructions than with a Probate Avoidance Plan.  A Living Trust Plan also provides more flexibility to manage your assets for the benefit of your partner, while still enabling you to achieve other estate planning goals.  

 

Finally, a Primary Estate Plan uses a last will & testament to carry out your estate planning instructions.  This is the lowest cost option to achieve all of your estate planning goals, but probate will be required to administer your estate.  

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