Mullen and Iannarone, P.C.
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Estate planning protections for cohabiting couples

Beyond the romantic sentiment and vows before family and friends, marriage is also a legal contract that give rights and protections in medical emergencies, financial situations, the death of a spouse and other situations. New York couples who choose to forgo marriage in favor of cohabitation can also enjoy these benefits by understanding what those are and creating an estate plan.

An accident, stroke or other hospitalizing illness can quickly upset a family's normal routine. It is at this time that a cohabiting couple can realize the danger of life without an estate plan. Couples can give each other the rights to make health care decisions for each other with a health care proxy.

Control of real estate, assets and retirement accounts is also at stake in the death of a partner. The failure to produce a valid will results in asset distribution according to state law. Several steps can be taken to avoid intestacy and ensure a cohabiting partner retains access to the home and possessions. One step is partners including each other in their final wills. The couple may also want to look into trusts and various powers of attorney for further protection.

The estate planning process can be exhausting, and it requires considering outcomes that few healthy young people want to entertain. However, these legal preparations can prevent terrible situations from becoming even worse, due to legal fights over decision making and financial insecurity. Couples must decide what options they wish to pursue to protect one another. An attorney with a background in estate planning can help them understand those options better.

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