Some, if not many, committed couples have chosen not to marry for whatever reason, but it leaves them without the right to protect and help each other in certain situations.
There are some steps that can be taken so that certain rights of married couples can be artificially created. Examples would be rights to visit in a hospital as family, the right to make decisions for medical care, the right to handle business and personal affairs when the other member of the couple cannot. Basic mechanisms used toward this end are as follows:
- Healthcare Proxy with HIPPA Release: This allows the named proxy, or proxies, to make medical decisions on behalf of another, taking it out of the hands of family members who may not know the wishes of the person needing the proxy. It also prevents the doctors from making their own decisions. The proxy becomes tantamount to a spouse in the ability to make these decisions.
- Power of Attorney: A POA allows the person to act on behalf of another in a list of situations. The “list” can be limited to certain actions and activities, or it can be inclusive or all duties listed on the POA. If someone is incapacitated and cannot act on their own, the POA gives the power to another, for example, the other party of a couple.
- Civil Union, Domestic Partnership: These formalization of relationships provide certain benefits to unmarried couples that they could not otherwise obtain. These formalizations are available both to same sex couples as well as to opposite sex couples. One massive benefit is that insurance coverage becomes available as if the couple is married, and provides certain other rights normally available only to a married couple such as state (not Federal) tax benefits. The process is simply filing a form signed by both parties committing to the civil union. The termination of the civil union/domestic partnership is even easier: One party signs a form at the County Clerk’s Office to end the formal relationship, paying a small filing fee. That’s it.
These are simply some examples of what an unmarried couple can to do give each other rights and protections in the case of emergency or for other general purposes. The Healthcare Proxies and Powers of Attorney really are a must to assure that the person that knows you best has rights to help and protect when needed, and the documents are part of any reasonable Estate Planning scheme. As to a Will? Without one, your estate will split up among blood relatives and your loved one will be left in the lurch without advance planning.
No one ever knows when the issue where this power is needed comes about. It might be twenty years from now, or it might be tomorrow. If it is tomorrow, you will regret not having these things in place when it is too late to fix it.
If you would like to discuss an Estate Plan or Estate Planning documents to protect yourself and your other half, civil union, domestic partnership issues, Contact Diana Cunningham, or text/call Diana at 315-565-2760.