For a variety of reasons, more and more couples are choosing to live together without getting married nowadays. Although this may seem like a suitable living arrangement, it can create a variety of problems if you or your partner becomes incapacitated. In such an event, your partner would not have a say in what happens to you. In fact, he or she may even be prevented from seeing you.
Additionally, in the event of incapacity, the decisions for your healthcare (and management of your assets) would legally be entrusted to a family member. This is the case, even if it was the opposite of what you wanted. If your relationship with your partner was one that your family member did not approve of, he or she could take steps to ensure that your partner is kept in the dark about your medical status and treatment decisions.
Fortunately, this scenario is does not have to happen. You, not the courts, can decide what will happen in such an event by putting together an advance directive. An advance directive allows you to do two primary things: name a person you trust to make healthcare decisions on your behalf if you are unable to, and specify the types of medical treatment you would or would not like in certain situations (e.g. feeding tubes, respirators, etc.). Additionally, by making your wishes known, an advance directive can help your partner and your family avoid disagreements regarding your care.
If you have not yet added an advance directive to your estate plan, it is important to seek out the assistance of an experienced estate planning attorney as soon as possible. An attorney can review your plan and ensure that all necessary documents are in place to carry out your wishes.