Although it was seriously frowned upon a few decades ago, many people choose to cohabitate prior to getting married these days. Some couples even decide not to get legally married for a variety of reasons. While cohabitation is more socially acceptable these days, the law still makes numerous important distinctions between couples who are married and those who are not. One area where the law has yet to change with the changing times is in the area of estate planning. That is precisely why an unmarried couple must create an estate plan.
Estate planning is important for everyone; however, a married couple has a certain amount of built-in estate planning by virtue of state intestacy laws. Those are the laws that apply if you die without leaving behind a valid Last Will and Testament. Though state laws vary, in all states your legal spouse is usually entitled to a portion of your estate if you die intestate. Your fiancée/partner/lifelong companion, on the other hand, is entitled to nothing as a general rule. Therefore, if you want to leave anything to him or her, you must do so via your estate plan.
Along with the desire to leave assets to your partner, you may also want to endow your partner with rights in the event of your incapacity. Again, the law will not give him or her rights. If you want your partner to have the authority to make medical decisions on your behalf or handle your finances should you become incapacitated, you must do this through an estate plan.