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Estate Planning for Unmarried People in Grand Rapids

Marital Status FormWhile married couples are most likely to seek out the services of an estate planning lawyer in Grand Rapids, unmarried people may actually need it more. It’s a pretty well known fact that when a married spouse passes away, the other will likely inherit a considerable portion of the estate, simply by virtue of the legal marriage.

But, what about folks who are sharing their lives but are not legally married or a person who agrees to be a caregiver in exchange for the right to live in the house? The situation for them can become much more dire should one of them pass away without a solid estate plan in place. For example, even if the two people live together in a home, if one of them dies, the other may have no legal right to the property—even if he or she helped pay for it! It is unfortunate, but estate planning lawyers in Grand Rapids have seen far too many situations where adult children have kicked their deceased parents’ partner, caregiver or roommate out of a home so it could be sold for the proceeds.

To avoid this kind of drama, a Grand Rapids estate planning lawyer may recommend that a house and other assets be titled in a trust or otherwise combined to continue the arrangement following the death of one of them, if that is the parties’ intent. There are potential tax implications to taking this step, so check with your attorney to weigh your options. It is also possible for people in this type of situation to set up a situation where a surviving partner is allowed to continue to reside in a home until his or her death with what is called a “life estate.” The property is available to the survivor but then passes on to the original owner’s children or other designated beneficiaries.

As an illustration, assume that Joe was married to Louise, and they had three kids together. Louise passed away, and sometime later, Joe became friends with Kelly, who agrees to care for Joe in exchange for living in Joe’s house. Unfortunately, Joe’s now-adult children don’t approve of Joe’s arrangement with Kelly. If Joe and Kelly don’t create a legally-binding plan with an estate planning lawyer, Joe’s kids could kick Kelly out of the house upon Joe’s death.

We’ll take this a step further and say that even though they’re not supportive of Joe’s choice, he still loves his children and wants to make sure they eventually inherit the house to pay for their children’s education or whatever. But, he also wants to make sure that they cannot remove Kelly from the house out of spite or greed. Joe and Kelly could put together a plan of action with their Grand Rapids estate planning lawyer to stipulate that Kelly has the right to live in the house until death (a life estate), and then it would become the property of Joe’s children.

This is just one scenario in which an unmarried people would want to consider getting legal advice. Meeting with a Grand Rapids estate planning lawyer is a good way to find out if there are concerns that you aren’t even aware that you should have, especially if you are unmarried.

If you would like to speak with a professional Grand Rapids estate planning lawyer, please contact Eyestone Law Offices at 800.667.5291 to schedule a free initial consultation today! We provide services throughout West Michigan and have three offices conveniently located in downtown Grandville and Muskegon, and another in Grand Rapids near Woodland Mall.




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