Here we are at the beginning of September and it’s “back to school” time. As we work to put our children in the best possible position to be well-prepared and successful students, we need to do the same for ourselves and our spouses or significant others. There are certainly valid reasons for not getting married, including financial considerations, such as the loss of pensions and medical insurance from a previous spouse or the impact on financial aid for your college-bound child. For those in committed, unmarried relationships, you have additional hurdles to address that married couples do not.

Unlike married couples, significant others do not have built-in rights to handle medical emergencies or situations for each other. I remember this heart-breaking story 10 years ago about a Seattle woman who died in the basement of her home when a flash flood trapped her inside. To make this even more tragic, her wife/partner was denied access to see her until an out-of-town relative granted permission. This situation led her wife to advocate for legislation that was later passed as Washington’s Domestic Partnership Law. While laws are helpful, you and your significant other can put documents in place to ensure your wishes are respected. Here is a suggested list of documents so you can get started:

  1. HIPAA: Make sure that your contact and permission HIPAA paperwork at your various doctor’s offices is current, stating the name and contact information for your significant other (SO). If you need to have a procedure or surgery, include this same information for your SO on that paperwork. Then, he or she can easily interact with the doctors and nurses to get information and updates.
  2.  Medical Power of Attorney: This document goes hand-in-hand with the HIPAA forms and allows you to name your SO as one who can make medical decisions for you if you can’t. Recently, my SO needed cataract surgery, which is really a fairly simple procedure with today’s medical advancements. We didn’t take any chances and had our estate attorney draw up medical POA’s for both of us, naming each other and a family member as decision-makers. While his procedures were successful, it still gave us peace of mind knowing that I could take care of any medical issues for him. Be sure to give a copy of this to your doctors for their files and the hospital if you are preparing for surgery of any kind.
  3. Living Will: Along with the medical power of attorney, our estate lawyer prepared living wills for each of us. Working through the living will questionnaire, we were forced to have those hard, uncomfortable conversations. But the best part was hearing each other share our wishes in a calm and peaceful setting. If your living will includes do not resuscitate (DNR) or do not intubate (DNI) orders, be sure to give this document to your doctors.

Making a commitment to the one who holds our heart is one of the most important decisions we will make. And giving loving care to that special person in his or her time of need is a part of that commitment. Having the above documents in place will keep unnecessary stress out of an already difficult situation. If you keep putting this off, have your financial advisor add this to your life and financial planning process. Here at Avier, we partner with our clients in these matters, guiding them and working with their estate attorneys to have those important documents in place.