When you are making plans for your twilight years it is important to make sure that your assets get to your heirs efficiently and effectively via a well executed estate plan. But it is also important to prepare for the possible eventualities that we all face toward the end of our lives. The segment of society that is 85-years-old and older is the fastest growing demographic in the United States, and when you recognize this fact it is prudent to prepare for the possibility of incapacitation at some point in time. This is not to say one should expect it; it is just a matter of being prepared “just in case,” and that is part of any type of planning.
When you take the possibility of incapacity into account with full recognition of the capabilities of medical science today, there is a looming possibility that is important for unmarried couples to address. Should you become incapacitated and fall into a terminal condition, decisions on whether or not you will be kept alive through artificial means may have to be made. If you are in a committed relationship but not legally married or registered domestic partners or civil union couples, and you are unable to make your own medical decisions, you would probably want your partner to make those decisions in your behalf.
If you were legally married, your spouse, registered domestic partner, or civil union partner, would automatically have the right to make the decisions in the event of your incapacitation. In other cases, your partner would not have the legal authority to do so; it is your next of kin who would assume that responsibility. So if you take the time to include a legal document called a health care proxy in your estate plan, the person of your choosing will be making your decisions for you should you be unable to do so for yourself, presumably with full knowledge of your wishes.