It is becoming more common for couples to decide to never become married. Whether or not this is for financial, religious, or moral reasons - this is much more common than it used to be. Unmarried couples need the assistance of a Pennsylvania Estate Planning Attorney, however, because the legal defaults for estate planning purposes leave a person's estate almost entirely to his or her spouse in the absence of a Will stating otherwise. Additionally, retirement plans also provide for a person's spouse to receive their benefits. This leaves an unmarried couple without these default benefits and in a position where they need a well-drafted estate plan including a Will so that they may leave their property and designated belongings to their partner.
There are many examples in PA law where the law specifically provides for a spouse as the default recipient for some benefit or asset. For example, Pennsylvania's Intestacy Law (which comes into effect when a person does not have a Will) provides first and foremost for your spouse (if they survive you) and then for your children. This means that your spouse will receive a large portion of your estate if you do not have a Will in place that leaves your property to another person or persons.
Property that passes out of intestacy, such as retirement plans or life insurance proceeds also have ways of providing for a spouse in the event of death. For example, most pension plans have surviving spouse benefits for the person's legal spouse.
For estate planning purposes, a couple who does not plan on getting married has to be careful by ensuring that they have a valid Pennsylvania Will in place providing each other with all assets that they would like their partner to receive. This way, their estate will be distributed based on their Will and not via the PA intestacy laws. If an unmarried couple were to decide not to have a Will, they would be in trouble with the PA intestacy law defaults and may only receive a small share (if anything at all) from their lifelong partner.
Contact an Allegheny County Wills Attorney today to discuss drafting a Will if you are in a long-term relationship but are not planning on getting married. You want to be sure that your partner is provided for in the event of your death.