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Estate Planning for Unmarried Couples - Part 3

Updated: Jul 19, 2023

Hi, my name is Leslie Sultan. I'm an estate planning attorney in New York and New Jersey, and this is part three of my four-part series on how to protect your partner and yourself if you are in an unmarried relationship, cohabitating, and possibly have minor children together.

As a reminder, part one was geared towards protecting your partner via estate planning (i.e. wills and trusts) so that they are able to properly inherit your assets and property and vice versa. Part two covered unmarried partners making financial decisions about one another in the event of individual incapacity, and we briefly discussed medical power of attorney.

Today we will emphasize the medical power of attorney or a health care proxy that would allow your partner, if you are not married, to make medical or health care decisions in the event of your incapacity. This is really imperative. Here’s why: when you cohabitate with your partner and you trust them, most likely you would want their input on your health care decisions in the event that you can't make those decision for yourself, right? But when you're not legally recognized as a married couple, your partner has NO right to weigh in on those important medical decisions for you without a legal document!

In New York, we call that document a health care proxy. In some places, it's called a medical power of attorney. A health care proxy allows you to appoint a health care agent — someone you trust to make health care decisions for you (in this case your trusted partner) if you are unable to make decisions for yourself. In order for the health care proxy to become effective, two doctors must confer that you are unable to make your own decisions.

Want to speak directly with me about this?

About the Author

Image of Leslie Sultan
Leslie Sultan Esq.

Leslie has been practicing law since 2009 and is the host of the estate planning podcast 'Legacy Purse'. She has a long history of representing family members struggling to inherit property and/or wealth from deceased family members through the Probate Courts. Knowing how time-consuming and expensive the probate process is, Leslie takes great pride in helping her clients learn how to plan and protect their families during their lives so they can avoid the probate court process and save their loved ones that additional grief (and expense).


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