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Making Medical and Financial Decisions for Your Unmarried Partner

Home Family Law Making Medical and Financial Decisions for Your Unmarried Partner


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If you ever become unable to make your own health care decisions or manage your own finances—because of injury, serious illness, or advanced age—you probably want your partner to step in and take care of you. Unfortunately, all unmarried couples need signed authorization to be able to make decisions for one another.

There are a few simple legal documents to prepare to allow your partner to make critical decisions on your behalf. These are called health care directives and durable powers of attorney for finances. Without these documents, your partner may face substantial obstacles to acting for you when the need arises.

Fortunately, the documents you need are straightforward and usually easy to complete.

Health Care Directives

Anyone can create simple documents outlining their wishes for medical treatment in the event they become incapacitated. These documents may also name someone to make medical decisions on the signer’s behalf. These documents are particularly important for unmarried partners. Without these directives, doctors will turn to a family member designated by law to make medical decisions for you. Most states list spouses, adult children, and parents as top-priority decision makers, making no mention of unmarried partners.

Priority as surrogate decision makers is always given to registered domestic or civil union partners. No matter what state you live in, you can save your partner a great deal of time and trouble by planning ahead.

There are two documents that permit you to set out your health care wishes. Both are grouped under the broad label health care directives. First, you need a written statement made directly to medical personnel with wishes for medical care if you become incapacitated. Your statement functions as a contract with your treating doctor, who must either honor your wishes for health care or transfer you to another doctor or facility that will honor them.

The second document is a durable power of attorney for health care. You can appoint your partner to see that your doctors give you the kind of medical care you want to receive. Plus, you can also use your durable power of attorney for health care to give your unmarried partner other rights to participate in your medical care.

Durable Powers of Attorney for Finances

A durable power of attorney for finances allows you to name another person to handle your finances for whatever reason. Every state recognizes this type of document.

As with medical care documents, you should also seriously consider making a financial durable power of attorney for your unmarried partner. If you become incapacitated without one, your partner will have to ask a court for authority over your financial affairs. These “conservatorship proceedings,” can be time-consuming and expensive—and they can be disastrous for unmarried couples if the court names another family member to take over.

You can make your financial power of attorney effective immediately or one that “springs” if you become incapacitated. While some people are more comfortable making a springing document, an immediately effective document has advantages. If you make your document effective immediately, your partner can handle financial transactions for you at any time. This can be useful if you are out of town, under the weather, or temporarily unavailable for any other reason.

A durable power of attorney for finances can give your unmarried partner as much or as little control over your finances as you wish. This can range from using your assets to pay your bills and everyday expenses to operating your small business.

Contact GCW Lawyers

If you are in a long-term relationship and want your unmarried partner to be able to make important medical and financial decisions on your behalf, a family law attorney at GCW Lawyers can help you fill out and file the necessary paperwork to make sure that happens. Call us at 888-357-7661 or e-mail us at info@gcwlawyers.com to set up a free consultation.

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