Estate planning is critical for any intelligent wealth management plan, and thorough estate planning includes wills, trusts, powers of attorney, healthcare directives, and so forth. Included in most estate plans are provisions and directives for spouses, and under Illinois law, legally married couples are able to reap a wide range of benefits. As such, whether same-sex couples or unmarried couples who’ve been living together for years, unmarried couples face several issues regarding their estate planning benefits and opportunities.
If you’re setting up or adapting your estate plan as an unmarried couple, it is a good idea to contact a leading Chicago estate planning attorney to help you draft estate planning documents, manage the strategies, and implement your plans when the time comes.
Below, we’ve included some essential guidelines to estate planning for unmarried couples, but in the meantime, you can call James C. Provenza & Associates, P.C. for a free, no-obligation consultation.
Safeguards for Married Couples
Couples married in Illinois have several safeguards under Illinois probate laws. These provisions assure that the surviving spouse is provided for if deceased spouse forgets or purposely fails to provide for him/her. For instance, if you die without a will, then the law can provide for the surviving spouse through the Illinois Probate Act at 755 ILCS 5/2-1 in the Rules of Descent and Distribution.
Unmarried Couples Without a Will
Unmarried couples don’t enjoy such safeguards, regardless of how long the unmarried couple has lived together. One famous example of this is the case of In re Estate of Andrea Marie Hall (1998). In this case, the unmarried couple had been living together from 1988 to 1996, when Andrea Hall died. The surviving spouse sought to inherit a portion of her life partner’s estate as a “surviving spouse,” but in 1998, the First District of the Illinois Appellate Court decided that the couple had not taken the steps to legalize their private marriage ceremony.
Estate Plan for Unmarried Couples
To avoid the situation mentioned above, all unmarried, cohabiting couples should take the necessary steps for their estate plan. A few of the techniques employed for unmarried couples often include:
- Updated wills
- Joint titles of assets such as homes, cars, stocks and bank accounts
- Proper designations of beneficiaries on life insurance and benefit plans
- Powers of attorney for property and health care in the event of disability
By updating or creating these estate tools, an unmarried couple can protect themselves in the event of a death or an incapacitating illness or injury. Without these tools, most estates will go into probate while blood relatives can make decisions about property and the health of a person, excluding the other member of the unmarried couple.
Contact Chicago Estate Planning Attorney Provenza
Life decisions and transfer of assets upon death or injury always involve the people you love and care for, and for this reason, Illinois law hasn’t been that forgiving to unmarried couples. Fortunately, there are certain steps that you can take to protect your assets, your property and healthcare wishes, and so forth. By calling Chicago estate planning attorney James C. Provenza, we can work with you, one-on-one, to develop a thorough and proactive estate plan. Call our Chicago office today at (847) 729-3939 for a free consultation.