New York Estate Planning for Unmarried Couples, Domestic Partners and Non-Traditional Families

Now that the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision, Obergefell v. Hodges, has extended the rights of same-sex couples to marry in all 50 states, LGBT married couples now enjoy the same legal rights and protections as traditional couples concerning inheritance, taxes and other legal benefits of marriage.

While New York State grants certain rights to domestic partnerships, the freedom for all people to marry may cause legal challenges to the rights of unmarried couples.

Unmarried couples must address estate planning with great care if they wish to protect their loved ones, especially when the family includes minor children.

Stephen J. Silverberg is an estate planning attorney experienced in creating effective legal plans and protection for unmarried couples and families for over 30 years. Key issues include protecting each other in daily life, providing for disability and illness, disposition of assets upon death, and determining the control of final arrangements.

Any plan must address both the expected and unexpected events of life.

Where there are minor children, it is especially important that a couple name guardians who they would wish to raise their children, if an unexpected tragedy occurs. It is also necessary to assure that the children’s guardians will have the resources to pay for caring for the children.

Another problem area is planning for disposition of an estate after death, which differs from planning for married couples. Unmarried couples do not receive the same tax benefits granted to married couples. Assets can be subject to significant taxes; however, various strategies can minimize taxes.

Use of an irrevocable trust can make the proceeds of life insurance policies permanently estate tax free. An added benefit is that it will also protect the proceeds for the survivor from any outside claims, including family, bankruptcy, IRS issues and general creditors.

Some key estate planning issues for couples in this position and families include:

  • Medical Care Planning, including a Health Care Proxy
  • Living Wills
  • Financial Durable Power of Attorney for Asset Management
  • Directions about Final Arrangements
  • Revocable Living Trusts
  • Planning for Care and Custody of Children
  • Irrevocable Wealth Transfer Trusts
  • Life Insurance
  • Charitable Trusts
  • Pros and Cons of Joint Ownership of Property
  • Probate and Estate Administration
  • Employee Benefits, Including 401(k) plans, Pensions and IRA Accounts

If you have questions about this area of the law, call Stephen J. Silverberg at 516-307-1236 or email at