Legal and Financial Considerations for Nontraditional Relationships

 

 

This post is the first of a series about estate planning and unmarried couples.  By “unmarried couples,” I mean both heterosexual couples who choose not to marry and same sex couples whose unions or marriages are recognized by some states.

Being in a nontraditional relationship presents a number of challenges about which people need to be aware.  These challenges vary from state to state but tend to be uniform in the federal context (IRS, social security, veteran’s benefits).  The legal challenges stem from the fact that (unless there is marriage, civil union or in Colorado – a designated beneficiaries agreement) the couple are legal strangers to each other, with limited or to-be-determined rights regarding the other or their relationship.

Some financial difficulties include:

1. You have to file your taxes as head of your household, or as a single individual.

2. The state you live in may not provide a divorce-like (palimony or settlement) procedure that gives you your equitable share of assets.

3. You and your partner do not get each other’s Social Security benefits.

4. You may have to sell your house to get long term care benefits under Medicaid. (This is changing, read  this for more information.)

5. You must designate your partner as the person to make your decisions if that is what you would like to see happen (by using a medical or financial power of attorney). Otherwise, the state you live in may default to a blood relative to make those decisions.  See this news release from the CMS website regarding Medicare’s enforcement of equal visitation.

6. You will want to carefully consider creating a will to get around your state’s intestacy laws in the event they do not recognize your union.  Keep in mind that Colorado is one of ten states that recognizes common law marriage, and unmarried couples can execute a designated beneficiaries agreement

7. You are not eligible to receive the transfer of your partner’s exemption like married couples are.

For more information about the financial difficulties, check out Erik Carter’s article “In a Nontraditional Relationship? Beware These 7 Financial Pitfalls,” in Forbes.

The lack of legal and financial protections apply to same sex couples along with unmarried couples who could otherwise get married but have chosen not to get married.  Keep in mind that your relationship may seem like a marital one, but just because you behave the same way as a married couple, the law will not treat your relationship with as a marital relationship.  It’s best to know these things up front and not be surprised by them!

Denver’s Senior Law Day is Coming Soon!

The 2012 Senior Law Day will be held in Denver on Saturday, July 28, 2012 from 7:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at the Denver Merchandise Mart.  This annual event is put on by the Colorado Bar Association (CBA) and is co-sponsored by the Elder Law and Trusts & Estates Sections of the CBA, along with CBA Continuing Legal Education.

You can register for the Denver Senior Law day here.

This annual educational seminar presents a number of diverse programs relevant for seniors in Colorado.   Attendees will get important and useful information on many issues facing our growing senior citizen population. If you are a senior, an adult child with a senior parent, or a caregiver, this is one day you cannot afford to miss!

Workshop topics include:

•             Aging in Place – Maintaining Your Independence at Home

•             Adult Protection and Elder Abuse

•             Assisted Living and Nursing Home Issues

•             Avoiding Court and the Legal System:  Mediation and Conflict Resolution

•             Consumer and Investment Fraud Prevention

•             Dealing with Trusts & Trustees

•             DNR Orders, Advance Directives, and End of Life Issues

•             Estate Planning: Wills, Trusts & Your Property

•             Disposition of Final Remains

•             Hanging Up the Car Keys for Good

•             Hospice, Palliative Care, and Other End of Life Issues

•             Illness and Death of a Significant Other

•             Lifelong Learning and the Aging Brain

•             Planning For Your Pets

•             Powers of Attorney , Guardianship & Conservatorship

•             Long-Term Care Insurance

•             Medicaid

•             Medicare 101

•             Trust Planning for Individuals with Disabilities on Public Benefits

•             Reverse Mortgages

•             Social Security

•             Taking Care of Your Pets and Pets Taking Care of You

•             The Basics: Memory Loss, Dementia and Alzheimer’s

•             VA Benefits

•             What to Do When Someone Dies

•             The Village Movement and Your Community: Neighbors Helping Neighbors to Age in Place

 

Like many of my estate and elder law attorney colleagues, I am proud to be a legal sponsor of this worthwhile event.  If you can’t attend the Denver Senior Law Day, there are other opportunities:

In Boulder County (Longmont) on Saturday, August 11- register here

In Larimer County (Fort Collins) on Saturday, August 11- register here

If you can’t make it to a Senior Law Day but are interested in looking at the 2012 Senior Law Handbook, chock full of 33 Chapters (many on new topics including . . . Facebook!) click here

Don’t forget that the CBA website at www.cobar.org has lots of helpful information for the public. Check it out!