Financial and legal expert Timothy Gagnon shares important steps unmarried couples can take to ensure their rights and finances as partners.
- Create a joint checkbook and contribute to it your share of the expenses—if one person pays the entire mortgage on a jointly-owned home, then you have a gift for gift tax purposes.
- Record contributions to large purchases like cars, houses, and stock accounts, because on the death of the first, you will have to prove contribution or the entire asset will be included in the first estate.
- Write estate documents like Wills, Powers of Attorney, and Living Wills, since the other person has no rights in court, probate, or at the hospital to handle the other’s affairs. You need to ensure your legal rights.
- Use a Trust if you wish to leave your worldly goods to the other so that the assets are not subject to probate when your family could fight to get those assets in place of your significant other.
- Make sure your 401k, life insurance, etc. have your significant other listed as the beneficiary, or the asset will go to the estate and probate court review.
- Choose the form of holding on joint accounts as joint with right of survivorship on all joint accounts so the other gets the account outright at death and has the ability to obtain funds should you become disabled.
- Have a great life whichever way you choose to live.