Safeguard Your Partner from Estate Legalities

Physician's Money Digest, December 2005, Volume 12, Issue 16

AAII Journal

Maybe you're a physician who is notthe marrying type, but that's no excuse fornot taking the right measures to protectyou and your partner from future legalwoes. According to the , if aperson dies without a will, the courts willrecognize heirs in the following order:spouse, children, parents, siblings, andother close blood relatives. In legalese,"spouse"does not translate to "partner,"which means couples who do not hold amarriage certificate need legal documentsto protect their partner's best interests.Unmarried couples in particular need tosecure the following documents for awatertight estate plan:

•Will. Regardless of what is declaredin your will, if your partner is not namedas beneficiary on life insurance policy,IRA, and 401(k) forms, then themost current beneficiary on file willbe recognized. Update all forms toensure that your assets will be distributedthe way that you intend.

•Revocable or irrevocabletrust. Placing assets in a revocable orliving trust diminishes the possibility of afuture contested will. As long as you arealive and competent, a living trust can bechanged at any time. For physicians andtheir partners who hold substantial assets,consider an irrevocable trust, which cannotbe changed without consent of the beneficiaryand offers tax advantages that revocabletrusts do not.