How should unmarried couples protect their estate and financial holdings?

If you are not married to your life partner, it is doubly important that you:

  • Draft wills. Without a will, a lifetime partner has virtually no rights. The chances of your wishes being carried out after you’re gone are more likely if you put them in writing through a will.
  • Own property together. If your property is jointly owned, with right of survivorship, then there is no question that your partner will keep jointly held property after you’re gone, and vice versa.
  • Both of you should have a durable power of attorney. A durable power of attorney allows your partner to sign papers, checks, and generally take care of other financial issues on your behalf should you become incapacitated.
  • Make a health care proxy. This is also known as a medical or healthcare power of attorney. It permits your partner to talk on your behalf and to make medical decisions, should you become injured.
  • Have living wills. Having a living will leaves no question about your wishes regarding end of life and other healthcare issues, should you ever not be able to speak for yourself.