If you died and were unmarried, who would plan your funeral? What would happen to your estate – i.e. everything you own? What if you had been in a relationship with someone for years or even decades?
Some of you will remember my newsletter article on Philip Seymour Hoffman who died suddenly, leaving behind three minor children and his unmarried life partner of fifteen years, Mimi O’Donnell. Most of the articles about this estate at the time (mine included) were discussing the estate tax ramifications of Hoffman not being married and therefore not being about to take advantage of something called the “unlimited marital deduction” – that is fancy tax language for you can leave everything to your spouse, double your exemption, and defer any estate tax until a later time. But recently it occurred to me as I read an article about how Ms. O’Donnell made all the funeral arrangements for Hoffman that under Florida Law, if no planning had been done, there would be major issues.
The Florida estate laws say that because she is not Mr. Hoffman’s surviving spouse, unless Mr. Hoffman specifically and in writing gave her such power through his estate plan, Ms. O’Donnell would have little chance of legal authority to make decisions about Mr. Hoffman’s disposition or to his living trust. Actually, she would be nineteenth in line to make such estate planning decisions, after any family member, and complete strangers such as the medical examiner or Mr. Hoffman’s county commissioner. FS 497.005(39)(c). Crazy to think about, I know.
Most people don’t know that unmarried couples have virtually no rights under the Florida statutes.
The good news is that most if not all of those rights can be created with the proper documents and through estate planning. If you are part of an unmarried couple (or know a couple that have been together for a long time sans marital bliss) please make the time to hire an estate attorney and formally plan your estate. You have a lot to lose if you don’t.
To your Family’s Health Wealth & Prosperity,
-Your Estate Planning Attorneys
Contact our friendly Client Services Director, Jackie at 305.707.7126 or email her at Jackie@trustcounsel.com if we can assist you in achieving your estate planning goals.