Apr 22, 2016 | Family Law

Not every couple in Illinois wants to get married. To be sure, marriage is a personal choice, but there can be unexpected consequences if one unmarried partner suddenly becomes ill and incapacitated. In this situation, someone needs to make decisions about the medical care of the ill person. If the unmarried couple has not established a power of attorney for health care, then neither partner will have a legal say about important medical decisions pertaining to the other in the case of an emergency.

Imagine that you and your partner have been together for years. Then, after a car accident, he or she is unable to communicate. If you are not married and you have no power of attorney for health care, you will not be the first person the state will entrust to make important decisions: guardians, spouses and blood relatives take precedence, including:

· Adult children

· Parents

· Siblings

· Adult grandchildren

In many cases, the health care agents who are assigned to make decisions aren’t aware of what the injured person would have wanted; or, there may be disagreement about what to do. Therefore, while remaining unmarried may come with certain benefits, clarity in the case of medical emergencies is not one of them. Having a power of attorney for health care – and for finances, for that matter — is particularly important if you have children. If you and your partner are not married, make sure to consult with an attorney who can put your wishes in writing to provide clarity in the case of a medical emergency.