Are you in a long-term relationship but not legally married? This is very common among couples across the country because it seems more simplified to keep all legal and financial responsibilities separate. However, there are some legal precautions you both need to take in order to ensure your wishes are carried out should you pass away or become unable to speak for yourself. Married couples have the benefit of making all medical and financial decisions if something happens to one of them. However, unmarried couples are not provided this benefit unless you have taken the legal steps for them to do so. If you want to avoid any legal, financial, or family issues later on, take the time to get these two documents in order:
An advanced directive is a document that states what your wishes are with regard to your healthcare status should you not be able to make life or death decisions for yourself. It outlines the treatment you want or do not want to have if you are injured or ill to the point that you could pass away. If you do not want to be resuscitated, for example, this would be stated in your advanced directive.
To complete an advanced directive, visit your local hospital patient relations department for a form. They can help you fill it out and inform you of your legal rights and responsibilities. You will make a written statement that will specify what you want to happen with regard to your healthcare decisions.
Power Of Attorney
All states recognize a power of attorney when it comes to making decisions on behalf of your partner. Contrary to popular belief, power of attorney is not exhaustive of all of your legal affairs. You will need a power of attorney for both your health and finances.
Your power of attorney for finances allows you to name the person who you want to handle your finances if you cannot do it on your own. The state will require an immediate family member or spouse to be your power of attorney unless you name someone else to do so. If you and your partner share the financial responsibilities in your relationship, taking the time to name power of attorney is crucial because your own money is intertwined. It could be disastrous if someone else had access to accounts that involved your money.
You will also need a power of attorney for healthcare. This is similar to an advanced directive, but it does not include anything about your wishes to be resuscitated. It simply gives the person you name as power of attorney the ability to make your medical decisions.
This is a very crucial document for unmarried couples. There have been countless cases in which a domesticated partner cannot act on his or her loved one's behalf because they are not married and not a biological family member. Most states will need to have a legal spouse or direct family member to be there to speak for you unless you have designated someone else in a legal document such as an advanced directive.
If you are not sure where to find the correct forms to complete, give a local family law attorney (such as Gilbert P Kaback) a call. You do not need to have your attorney complete these documents for you, but they can advise you if you have questions.