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Idaho Estate Planning Estate Planning for Unmarried Couples

By Lane V. Erickson, Idaho Estate Planning Attorney

Everybody’s lives are different. Not everyone is married or follows a traditional marriage and family life. In fact, recent statistics indicate that over 18 million people in the United States are living with a person they have not married. From this group about 25% are older than 50.

Many people who aren’t married but who are living together combined their finances and property. They often have joint bank accounts, joint investment accounts, and have purchased property together such as homes, vehicles, and other items. They may also have children together.

As an estate planning attorney, I believe that everyone should have a well-thought-out estate plan for themselves that covers their life and circumstances. While I believe this is true for all married couples, I believe it’s even more important for those couples in Idaho who are not married. The reason for this is that Idaho is a community property State. This simply means that Idaho law provides specific protections and rights of transfer to married couples that aren’t enjoyed by couples who are not married.

The purpose of this article is to provide a Summary of the types of estate planning that unmarried couples should complete to make sure that they protect themselves and their loved ones. To help educate you a little bit more about the estate planning process and how estate planning can help you, we encourage you to download our Estate Planning Questionnaire and then schedule a free 30-minute consultation so we can discuss the options you have and answer your questions.

Last Will and Testament

Everyone should have a well written last will and testament that provides their specific wishes and instructions for how their money, property, and other assets will be distributed after they die. This is especially true for couples who are not married.

As stated above, Idaho provides specific protections for married couples when it comes to a transfer of property at the death of a spouse. However, if a couple has not been married, they don’t enjoy the same protections and rights. Because of this, a written last will and testament is vitally important to make sure that finances, property, money, and other assets are transferred to the surviving member of the couple. If you do not have a written last will and testament, then the laws of intestacy apply. These laws specifically state that you are money and property will be distributed to the people in the order listed in the statutes. This starts with a surviving spouse. If you aren’t married, you don’t have a surviving spouse. Because of this, the statutes then move on to other family members such as children, parents, siblings, and others.

Essentially what this means is that if you don’t have a written last will and testament, and you die intestate, then your companion will likely receive nothing from your estate. This is especially troublesome if you purchased a house together or a vehicle together or you have a joint bank account or you have some other items that the two of you were using as part of your family structure.

The lawn Idaho allows each individual to create their own written last will and testament. If a written last will and testament exist, that it will be followed by the law in Idaho and by its courts. In other words, you have the ability in your will to list anybody you want to list as a beneficiary of your estate. They don’t have to be related to you. You can give your estate to whoever you want. This includes your companion.

Beneficiary Designations on Accounts

The same thing is true when it comes to dealing with your accounts. This could be retirement accounts, life insurance Benefit Accounts, annuities, bank accounts, or just regular investment accounts. Regardless of what they are, unless you have completed the beneficiary designation form, the third party that administers the account for you will be required to follow Idaho law when it comes to distributing the money from your account.

In other words, if you have not filled out your beneficiary designation form, naming some specific person to receive your account when you pass away, the third-party administrator will distribute the money from your account directly to your state. If you don’t have a written will, this means that your property will be administered under the laws of intestacy that were described above.

Because your accounts are administered under a contract, you have the contractual right to identify who you want the money from your account to go to. This is done on the beneficiary designation form. The good news is that you also have the ability to change your beneficiary designation form whenever you want and as often as you want.

Powers of Attorney

If you are unmarried the final part of your estate planning that you should complete is the powers of attorney. If you we’re suddenly struck with an illness or injury that completely incapacitated you, like Alzheimer’s or a stroke, someone has to be given authority to take care of your property finances and to help you make healthcare decisions. Through your power of attorney documents, you have the ability to dominate whoever you want who will receive this Authority.

However, if you do not have these documents done, then the only way that this can be accomplished is through a specific court proceeding called a guardianship. If a guardianship proceeding is taking place, any member of your family or loved one can throw their hat in the ring and try to convince the court that they would be the best person to have the authority of dealing with your money and property. This could result in family fights and in the appointment of someone that you yourself would not choose.

The bottom line is that if you are not married, it is vitally important that you get your estate planning done. The good news is that we have helped thousands of clients do this and we are confident that we can help you too. Please contact us today for a free 30-minute consultation.

Enlist an Idaho Estate Planning Attorney to Help You

Our team of Idaho lawyers can help you with any of your estate planning or probate needs. Whether you are seeking to create or review an estate plan for yourself or would like to help a loved one, we are available to discuss your options and answer your questions at an initial free 30-minute consultation. Call us toll free at 877-232-6101 or 208-232-6101 for a free consultation. You can also email us directly at lane@racineolson.com or stop by our office at 201 East Center Street, Pocatello, Idaho 83201. We will answer your questions and help you solve your Idaho Estate Planning problems.

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