Caring for a Loved One as an Unmarried Partner
When someone is facing a serious accident or illness, they probably expect that their partner can step in to provide care and make healthcare decisions.
Unfortunately, unmarried partners are often prevented from making medical and financial decisions for their partners without the proper paperwork. They can even be prevented from visiting their partner. Taking the time to complete a few simple legal documents in advance of a crisis can make sure important decisions stay in the hands of your partner.
Healthcare Paperwork for Unmarried Partners
An advance directive allows individuals to set out their wishes about the type of medical treatment they wish to receive if they are unable to communicate their wishes themselves. In addition, it is recommended that each individual set up a medical power of attorney naming the person who should make medical decisions if they are unable to do so.
If this healthcare paperwork is not setup by unmarried partners, doctors will turn to the person designated as next of kin by state law. This typically means a spouse, adult children, or a parent will become the decision maker instead of the unmarried partner – regardless of how close their relationship may be in real life.
Financial Paperwork for Unmarried Partners
A durable power of attorney for financial matters allows an individual to name a person to handle their finances in the event that they become unable to handle financial matters themselves. If unmarried partners do not have a financial power of attorney in place and one of them becomes incapacitated, a court will need to determine who should have control over the financial affairs.
Not only can these proceedings be time-consuming and expensive during an already difficult time, the court could decide that a family member should have precedence over an unmarried partner. This can be especially problematic if the unmarried couple share bank accounts and property.
When creating a financial power of attorney, an individual can decide if the power of attorney will only go into effect in the event of incapacitation or if they would like it to begin immediately. If It begins immediately, the person holding power of attorney will be able to handle financial transactions when the individual is traveling or otherwise unavailable.
An individual assigning power of attorney to an unmarried partner can also spell out exactly what can be done with their finances from simply paying bills to making important financial decisions.
Having the proper paperwork in place allows unmarried partners to make healthcare decisions and financial determinations while caring for their loved one in a crisis.
Crossroads Hospice & Palliative Care recommends that unmarried partners speak to their attorney to ensure all healthcare and financial documents meet local requirements. To learn more about the services Crossroads provides to those facing a serious or terminal illness, please call us at 1-888-564-3405.
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