Lessons in the Law April Report
Unmarried and Unprotected
Aside from the social recognition that comes standard with marriage, there are legalities supported by the union between two people that include certain rights and obligations. But what if you’re celebrating the idea of being there for your loved one in sickness and in health, and for richer or poorer, without that little piece of paper?
Boyfriends and girlfriends, and partners who have chosen to live their lives together without the benefit of a legal contract are unprotected if decisions must be made when sickness, health, money, and even death threaten to part them.
If your partner gets sick and ends up in the hospital, you have no right to be there, let alone make any decisions on his or her behalf. If your loved one’s family objects to your status, the desires of you and your partner take a back seat. In essence, you have no rights. And if he or she is unable to make decisions, the family gets to make them - not you.
It’s crucial for unmarried partners to put a living will and durable power of attorney for healthcare and finances in place. It’s the only way to make sure your wishes are carried out. Don’t assume because you’ve shared expenses and made purchases together that either of you will automatically inherit those items should the unthinkable happen. Without a will, you aren’t protected—if you take those items or use the money in a bank account, you could be charged with theft.
Death and illness aren’t governed by age, so putting a plan in place for you and your partner right now is crucial to avoiding problems later on.
Atty. John J. Urban