Estate Planning Must-Dos For Unmarried Parents

  • Estate Planning
Estate Planning Must-Dos For Unmarried Parents

Today, only about 64% of children live in homes with two parents who are married, an all-time low according to Pew Research Center. Families today include married and unmarried parents, same and different-sex parents, and blended families with children who are yours, mine and ours – and who may be born through a surrogate carrier, adopted or not the legal children of both parents. But one thing unmarried parents have in common is their desire to care for and protect their children. For unmarried parents, it is vital that they take legal steps to protect the safety and future of their children if something should happen to them or to their partner.

3 Vital Estate Planning Documents For Unmarried Parents

1. Make a Will or Trust
When you create a will, you take charge of your estate and choose how your estate will be distributed and who will take care of your minor children. A legally executed will or trust lets you decide who will inherit your assets after your death, and makes life easier for your partner and children after you die. An up-to-date will is the best way to protect your family and loved ones. A will is a legally binding document that makes life easier for your family after you die by explaining your decisions and legally make sure your wishes are carried out including:

• who you want to raise your children

• how you want your assets distributed

• who will manage your financial assets on behalf of your children

• identify any other beneficiaries such as step-children, nieces and nephews, or foster children

A legally executed will guarantees your wishes are respected, and your children will be cared for by a guardian you trust.
2. Create a Healthcare Power of Attorney
If you become incapacitated, who do you trust to make your health care decisions? If you and your partner are not legally married, they may not be allowed to make medical decisions on your behalf.  If you don’t appoint a health care proxy, the courts will assign someone to make your medical decisions – and it may not be a person your trust. A Healthcare Power of Attorney is a durable power of attorney, a legal device that allows one person to indefinitely make decisions on behalf of another.
3. Identify Your Partner as the Beneficiary on Retirement Accounts
Your beneficiaries are the people you have named to receive your assets, such as retirement accounts, bank accounts, life insurance policies, wills, trusts and other accounts. If you have a job with insurance benefits, life insurance, investments, retirement savings or other financial accounts that have a beneficiary, you need to review and update your beneficiaries to protect your minor children. Information on your beneficiary designation form will override your will.

What Happens If An Unmarried Parent Dies Without A Will?

If an unmarried person passes away without a will, the distribution of their assets is determined by state intestacy laws. In Illinois, if an unmarried person has children and dies without a will, the deceased’s property will be divided between them. Illinois intestate laws clearly outline children’s inheritance rights including for unmarried parents.

Illinois Intestate Laws and Children 

  • Children but no spouse:
    Surviving children inherit everything and divide it between them.
  • Adopted children:
    Children you legally adopted will receive an intestate share, just as your biological children do.
  • Foster children and stepchildren:
    Foster children and stepchildren you never legally adopted will not automatically receive a share.
  • Children placed for adoption:
    Children you placed for adoption and who were legally adopted by another family will not receive a share unless the decree of adoption specifically provides for the continuation of inheritance rights. If, however, your biological children were adopted by your spouse, that won’t affect their intestate inheritance.
  • Posthumous children:
    Children conceived by you but not born before your death will receive a share.
  • Children born outside of marriage:
    If you were not married to your children’s mother when she gave birth to them, they will receive a share of your estate if you acknowledged your paternity or if during your lifetime or after your death a court establishes your paternity.
  • Artificial insemination:
    A child born through artificial insemination after your death will receive a share if you consented in writing to the use of your biological matter and the child is born within 36 months of your death.

Protect Your Family: Contact A Lombard Estate Planning Attorney

Unmarried parents have unique concerns to protect their children through estate planning. Making a will doesn’t have to be difficult. Prepare for the future by contacting an experienced estate planning attorney at Estate & Probate Legal Group in Lombard Illinois at 630-864-5835.