In the first part of this series, we began discussing the estate planning tools all unmarried couples should have in place. Here, we’ll look at the final must-have planning tool.

Most people tend to view estate planning as something only married couples need to worry about. However, estate planning can be even more critical for those in committed relationships who are unmarried.

Because your relationship with one another is often not legally recognized, if one of you becomes incapacitated or dies, not having any planning can have disastrous consequences. Your age, income level, and marital status makes no difference—every adult needs to have some fundamental planning strategies in place if you want to keep the people you love out of court and out of conflict.

Last week, we discussed wills, trusts, and durable powers of attorney. Today, we’ll look at the final must-have estate planning tool you need here in California, designed to protect your choices about the type of medical treatment you would want in the event of tragedy.

3. Advance Healthcare Directive
In addition to naming someone to manage your finances in the event of your incapacity, you also need to name someone who can make health-care decisions for you.

In many states, different forms are required to designate (1) who you want to make medical decisions for you and (2) what healthcare decisions you want to make for yourself. This second type of document is often referred to as a “living will” (not to be confused with a will that distributes your assets after you die). Here in California, these two documents are combined into a single form called an advance health care directive.

If you want your partner to have any say in how your health care is handled during your incapacity, you should name your partner as your agent in your advance healthcare directive.

This gives your partner the ability to make health-care decisions for you if you’re incapacitated and unable to do so yourself. This is particularly important if you’re unmarried, seeing that your family could leave your partner totally out of the medical decision-making process, and even deny him or her the right to visit you in the hospital.

Don’t forget to provide your partner with HIPAA authorization along with the advance healthcare directive, so he or she will have access to your medical records to make educated decisions about your care.

In the advance healthcare directive, you can also designate how your care should be handled, particularly at the end of life, including if and when you want life support removed, whether you would want hydration and nutrition, and even what kind of food you want and who can visit you.

Without a valid advance healthcare directive, doctors will most likely rely entirely on the decisions of your family when determining what course of treatment to pursue. Without an advance healthcare directive, those choices may not be the choices you—or your partner—would want.

We can help
If you’re involved in a committed relationship—married or not—or you just want to make sure that the people you choose are making your most important life-and-death decisions, consult with us as your Family Business Lawyer® to put these essential estate planning tools in place.

With our help, we can support you in identifying the best planning strategies for your unique needs and situation. Contact us today to get started with a Family Wealth Planning Session.

This article is a service of Pantea I. Fozouni, Family Business Lawyer®. We don’t just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That’s why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session™, during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session and mention this article to find out how to get this $750 session at no charge.