The Wall Street Journal has a story today about More Older Couples Stay Together Because They Live Apart. It is apparently becoming more common that couples in the second half of life are enjoying relationships that seem non-traditional. Many of them do not get married or even live together. They each have a separate home and may see each other a few times a week (or month). Even though they are highly committed to each other, they each also want their space and independence. Some times, they want a long-term partner without entangling their finances or the family dynamics that come with marriage. According to Professor Jacquelyn Benson, they “are fulfilling a lot of the function of family for one another.”

If you are in one of these relationships, there are some planning items you should consider for your health decisions, financial decisions, and administration of your will.

What Kind of Planning Do I Need?

If you are in one of these relationships, kudos to you. It sounds like a perfect way for you to enjoy time with someone else and keep your personal space. But one of the hallmarks of our medical and financial systems is that married couples have different relationships than non-married couples.

Healthcare Planning

If you or your partner get sick, who should the doctor talk to? If you aren’t married, the doctor will likely look for a family member. A next of kin will be the person to get that call if something happens. But what about your partner? The one you talk to frequently, spend your free time with. If you’d like them to be involved in the health care decisions, you should consider a healthcare power of attorney. It’s not a long, expensive or complicated document. But it can provide you with a lot of peace of mind in case of an emergency.

Financial Planning

Hopefully, your financial advisor has already discussed this with you. If you’d like your partner to receive a portion of your assets when you die, you need to do some kind of planning. You can look into beneficiary designations on your accounts. These will automatically transfer all (or a portion) of the asset to the person you designate. Another option many married couples use is a joint account, but since you are living apart together, that option is probably not an attractive one for you. Each person’s financial situation is different, so talking to your financial advisor is the best way to plan. If you need a good financial advisor, email me and I can give you an introduction to the guy that I send my clients to…

Your Will

If you and your partner like to travel, you may have accumulated lots of keepsakes from your travels. Or perhaps there are other items that you’ve purchased together and it’s only fair that your partner would get them if you died. The simple way to do this is to have provisions in your will to make sure these items get to the correct person.

Also, if you spent so much time with your partner, they may be the best person to serve as the administrator for your estate. They will probably know where your important documents are kept. If you have pets who need taking care of immediately, they can be available to manage that.

Next Steps

If you need to create a will or if you have a will but none of the other documents, please give me a call and we can discuss some options for you – (877) AMAYERS.

Andrew Ayers
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I work with business and estate planning clients to craft legal solutions to protect their legacies.
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