While our Albuquerque Estate Planning Lawyers often receive questions from married couples seeking to protect their financial security and their loved one’s legacy, many couples who are not married assume that it is premature to engage in estate planning. This is a misconception because there is no reason that a ring and vows need to precede a plan that ensures that you have provisions in place for a significant other and/or your children as well as the possibility that you may become incapacitated. We have provided some estate planning issues that unmarried couples in New Mexico may want to consider.
Guardians for Children:
If you are an unmarried parent, it is prudent to seek the assistance of an estate planning lawyer so that you can set up paperwork that designates a guardian for your children if you are unavailable or suffer an injury, illness, or other condition that results in your being unable to care for your kids. Although family members can go to court and file for guardianship if something happens to both parents, this process may result avoidable delays and expense. Further, parents usually want to be the ones who determine the appropriate choice of guardian.
Form of Holding Assets:
Although community property law will play a critical role in protecting your spouse’s financial interest if you pass away, couples who are unmarried do not have similar protections unless they take affirmative action, such as titling property in both parties’ names, entering into contractual agreements regarding ownership of certain assets or listing a significant other as a beneficiary on insurance policies or retirement accounts. The preparation of a trust or will is also a prudent decision to prevent New Mexico intestate law from diverting assets away from your significant other and toward family members.
Health Care Decisions:
If you do not execute a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, your family members rather than your significant other will have the right to make decisions about your medical care if you are incapacitated. If you would prefer to have your significant other make these determinations, you need to execute this form of estate planning document empowering this person to make such decisions rather than a close relative.
Management of Property & Accounts:
If you become incapacitated, you may also desire that your significant other have access to your bank accounts and other assets to manage your affairs or obtain funds to pay household rent and utilities. A Durable Power of Attorney for Property Management can provide critical access to accounts and funds if you become incapacitated.
The above information is designed solely to illustrate general principles of law, and does not constitute a specific legal opinion on individual cases. We suggest that you contact experienced legal counsel for a specific opinion tailored to your individual circumstances.
If you have questions about estate planning, our Santa Fe, NM Estate Planning Attorneys at Jay Goodman & Associates, PC offer a free consultation in our centrally located offices in Santa Fe and Albuquerque so that we can discuss your specific situation. Call us today to schedule your free consultation at (505) 989-8117 to learn about your rights and options.