Financial Planning Cautions for Unmarried Long-Term Couples
Couples who are together for the long haul but choose to remain unmarried must be very intentional in their financial planning. States seems to treat long term couples different, so my cautions are going to be general across the board. Here are discussions that unmarried couples NEED to have:
1. Who do we want our beneficiaries to be?
Even if you have been together 30 years, you are not automatically considered your partner’s next of kin in every state. So, if your partner were to pass away without a will and without you named as beneficiaries directly on their accounts, you would not be entitled to those assets. The courts would likely award those assets to the nearest family members… whether those family members were emotionally close to your deceased partner or not!
You need to discuss who you want your beneficiaries to be on every account. Do you want all your accounts to list each other? Do you want some of your accounts to list each other while the others list your kids or other family members? This is a conversation you MUST have… and it is free to have. There is no cost to add beneficiaries to your accounts. Beneficiaries can also be changed later, so you can revisit the issue if something changes.
2. Who should own our home?
For the same reasons as listed above, you could run into a painful situation if your partner passes away and you did not jointly own your home or have an appropriate deed. You may not have any legal right to remain in that home after your partner passes away. Check your deed together and decide how you want your home to be handled in the event either of you were to pass away. This point applies to any vehicles you own as well.
3. What will happen to my annuity and pension?
Many annuities and pensions have the options for spouses to continue receiving a monthly payment upon the death of the policy owner. However, if you are unmarried, you may be unable to receive that income. It could simply be lost. There might not always be a way around this as some pensions require the alternative recipient to be a spouse, so you need to gather this information in advance so you can make appropriate plans.
4. Who will take care of our children?
Perhaps you have a blended family. Maybe you have a young child that you treat as your both of yours, but she only biologically belongs to one of you. You need to talk to an attorney to ensure that your children are cared for by whom you wish, if something were to happen to you.
I’ll be honest, financially planning for your family when you are not married is a bit trickier. Be sure to have the tough conversations and protect what you have worked hard for!