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Modern Estate Planning Blog

Elder Law & Special Needs Planning

Estate Planning Thoughts for Unmarried Couples | Trust Lawyers In Sacramento

September 18, 2013

Trust lawyers in Sacramento work with unmarried couples to help protect their assets and their partners’ interests should one of them pass away. The way that federal and state laws are set up, it is customary for a spouse to receive assets of an estate through the Sacramento probate process. Unfortunately, things are far less cut-and-dry when it comes to settling the estate of an unmarried partner.

For example, when one spouse dies, the home they share will typically pass to the surviving spouse. In the case where an unmarried partner dies, there is no guarantee that the survivor will have this privilege. Instead, the home could be awarded to the deceased’s children, parents, or siblings, even if the surviving partner has lived there for years.

One method that trust lawyers in Sacramento recommend is to title your assets in both partners’ names. In the case of a home, it may make sense to title the home in both partners’ names with both listed as joint tenants with rights of survivorship. Of course, this means that both partners have legal ownership rights during their lifetimes, as well. Adding a partner to title also may result in a gift tax issue.

It is definitely a good idea to work with a Sacramento attorney to understand all the implications of titling assets in both partners’ names. In addition to the ownership rights, there are other outcomes that need to be considered. There could be concerns over whether gift taxes will come into play.

Leaving the Assets to Someone Else

In many cases, the client may wish to leave the assets to a third party but still allow the surviving partner to benefit from them until he or she also passes away. In cases like this, the deceased partner may wish for the survivor to be able to live in the home they shared but then have it pass to the first partner’s children when the second dies.

In these situations, a Sacramento trust lawyer might recommend creating a life estate. The surviving partner can remain in the home, but other beneficiaries will be named to receive the property later. There are various kinds of trusts that can be used for this purpose, and your attorney will help to outline the pros and cons of using them.

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