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Do unmarried couples need an estate plan?

You and your partner have been together for the last 20 years. You were both coming out of other marriages -- via divorce -- when you met. You agreed that, while you were committed to each other, you did not want to get married again. It did not seem worth it to go through the whole process.

As you grow older, you start wondering about your estate planning. Do the two of you need an estate plan together?

You do. In fact, you could make the argument that unmarried couples need estate plans more than anyone else.

Remember, in the eyes of the law, you're not a couple at all. You have no rights to your partner's assets, and they have no rights to yours.

Say your partner passes away. If you have children together, the assets will pass to them. If not, they'll go to other family members. This could mean parents or siblings.

Now, you may have a good relationship with them and you may feel like they'll take care of you, but there's no guarantee. They don't have to give you anything.

The only way to guarantee that your assets go to your partner or that you get their assets is to have a will and an estate plan in place. You can then lay out your wishes, which can legally give assets to anyone you choose, whether they are technically your family or not.

Unmarried couples face a lot of complex legal issues. Make sure you fully understand the rights you have and what steps you need to take.

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