Livens & Reed, PLLC

Elder law: Protecting an unmarried partner

Over the last several decades, the composition of families in Texas and across the country has shifted somewhat. For instance, it is not unusual to find a couple that is not married. While estate planning is important for everyone, additional elder law consideration may be appropriate when a couple over the age of 50 are co-habitating but unmarried.

Some reports indicate that the number of people over 50 who are living together but unmarried has increased since 2007 by approximately 75%. This increase, some speculate, is the result of the divorce rate. Often, these couples want to ensure that their partner is cared for in the event that one of them passes.

Fortunately, there are tools to do this  -- tools that may be especially important for couples without children. Without an estate plan, the person's estate could go to a family member. If there's a will, the person can designate how his or her estate will be distributed, but there will be a probate process in which certain family members must be notified, even if they were excluded from the will. A living trust, however, can ensure that the assets are distributed as intended without the public probate process.

Creating a trust is not the only part of an estate plan that may be useful for a co-habitating unmarried couple. For example, each person might want to ensure that the other is able to make medical and financial decisions for him or her in the event of incapacitation. Fortunately, there are professionals in Texas with experience with elder law who can help create the necessary plans.

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