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Unmarried couples have unique estate planning needs

A great many young people in New Jersey fail to recognize the importance of creating a comprehensive estate plan. This is especially true among young couples who feel (and rightfully so) that their lives will be long and happy and that the need for estate planning is something to consider later in life. In reality, however, unmarried couples do not share the same rights as married families and should create an estate plan that addresses those inequities.

For example, when a young person becomes ill or is injured, the medical staff treating that patient will turn to close family members to direct the course of care. This is true even in cases where an individual is estranged from his or her family, and sometimes when the wishes of family members are in direct opposition to that of the patient. The person's partner may be far better equipped to make those decisions, but without the proper estate planning paperwork, he or she may be blocked from providing that assistance.

In order to ensure that one's partner is entrusted with the authority to make medical and financial decisions on one's behalf, it is important to create a body of documentation to that effect. This begins with powers of attorney paperwork, for both medical and financial matters. Additional direction can be provided with forms that outline which medical procedures an individual wants or does not want, as well as information about organ donation and the use of life support.

When a serious illness or injury occurs, those closest to the patient are often thrown into a difficult set of circumstances. Having to battle with family members for the right to direct the course of care for a partner can make this already difficult period of time virtually unbearable. By taking a proactive approach, these estate planning needs can be met, giving couples in New Jersey the peace of mind that comes with knowing that a loved one will be able to make important decisions if that need should arise.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Estate Planning for Unmarried Couples", Alexandra Smyser, Sept. 10, 2015

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