In any relationship where the parties intend to jointly own or use property, legal advice is recommended to ensure that their intentions are clear and enforceable during their relationship and at its end by death or otherwise. Proper planning not only provides peace of mind but protection from the often unwanted “default provisions” of state law that will decide for you if you do not.

If you fail to plan to protect paramours (unmarried couples) or friends, they may have no or limited rights on your death or disability. If you fail to plan for your spouse at death, the default requires your estate be divided between the surviving spouse and any children. By using wills, trusts, joint tenancies, entity ownership, beneficiary designations, and other methods, married and unmarried co-owners can avoid the defaults and ensure their wishes are enforced during their lives and thereafter. Tenancy by the entirety even allows married couples to protect their homestead from creditors of one spouse.

Persons with medical concerns, are disabled, or need assistance with financial matters also have law mandated defaults, but these defaults are often not what they may want, especially for non-married couples or those with no close family. By using powers of attorney for healthcare and finances, couples can plan for those future issues and ensure their wishes are followed for their care and assistance. Without prior planning, avoiding the law’s default provisions or even enforcing them can be lengthy and costly.

Couples in second marriages and with blended families are even more at risk of not achieving their wishes by relying on the law’s default provisions. Planning can identify and ensure the rights of the surviving spouse, provide each parties’ assets benefit their separate heirs, and avoid family disputes and bad feelings. Pre-marital agreements are also a useful planning tool for second marriages.

Unfortunately, death, disability, and life changes are inevitable, so couples planning for their relationship should also consider planning for their joint ownership and use of their assets. If we can assist you in this matter, please contact us.

This Brief is designed to provide our friends and clients with information regarding the various subject matters covered, it is not designed to take place of legal, accounting, or other professional advice.  If expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. This memorandum may constitute advertising under the rules regulating Illinois attorneys.