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Unmarried couples do not enjoy the inheritance rights of married couples. Because of this, estate planning is especially important to unmarried couples so that they can be sure their wishes will be legally carried out.

Unmarried couples that have been together for many years, or even decades, may give little thought to inheritance issues. However, in the absence of a Will, the state will decide upon the distribution of assets, and the state is under no legal obligation to consider a non-spousal partner or his or her children. Unmarried couples should at a minimum draft a will and establish beneficiaries for their assets.

In addition to a Will, each person should have a Power of Attorney and a Health Care Proxy. These documents will ensure that both financial matters and health care matters will be handled in accordance with the couples’ wishes. Unmarried couples do not have the legal rights to make health care decisions for each other. Drafting a Health Care Proxy and a Power of Attorney will prevent a judge from making decisions that should be left to couples and their loved ones.

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