Allison Harrison
September 15, 2023

Three is Not a Crowd: Estate Planning for Throuples

As with any relationship, throuples need to consider the future, especially when it comes to the distribution of assets and decision-making responsibilities. Like all relationships, communication is key to a successful throuple. One often overlooked, but incredibly essential piece of the relationship,  is estate planning especially because no state recognizes multiple spouses. 

Why is Estate Planning Crucial for Throuples?

Estate planning for throuples isn't just about distributing assets. It's about ensuring all parties in the relationship are protected, recognized, and their wishes are respected. The main concerns for throuples include:

  • Healthcare decisions: If one member of the throuple becomes incapacitated, decisions regarding their healthcare might fall upon the closest biological family member rather than their partners, unless provisions have been made.
  • Asset distribution: Without a will or estate plan in place, the assets of a deceased partner might not be distributed as they would have wished, leading to potential disputes or unintended consequences. Current decent and distribution laws provide for the assets to be distributed in a way that may leave out one or both remaining members of the throuple. 
  • Childcare decisions: If the throuple has children, it's vital to set clear guardianship and parental rights for all involved.

Estate Planning Basics for Throuples

While every throuple is unique, here are some foundational steps to consider when embarking on estate planning:

  • Draft a Will: This fundamental estate planning tool allows you to specify who inherits your property, who will be the executor of your estate, and, if necessary, who will become the guardian of your minor children. Additional care must be taken if two members of the throuple are married to one another and the third memberr is not married. 
  • Power of Attorney: This legal document allows one person to act on another’s behalf. Each member of the throuple should consider having both a financial power of attorney and a healthcare power of attorney.
  • Healthcare Directives: These are instructions about what medical treatment the individual would want or not want if they become unable to communicate their wishes.
  • Trusts: Especially for throuples, trusts can be an invaluable tool. Trusts allow for more flexibility than wills and can ensure that assets are managed and distributed according to very specific guidelines. A revocable living trust, for instance, allows assets to be transferred outside of probate, potentially offering more privacy and efficiency.

Unique Considerations for Throuples

Throuples face challenges that traditional couples might not. Here are some specifics to address:

  • Co-ownership Agreements: If the throuple buys property together, it's essential to have a clear co-ownership agreement. This contract can detail how the property is owned (e.g., equally or in different shares), how expenses are divided, and what happens if one partner wants to sell their share or passes away.
  • Parental Rights: If there are children involved, establishing parental rights is crucial. Depending on your jurisdiction, the third partner may not have automatic parental rights. Legal adoption or guardianship agreements can help safeguard each member's relationship with their children.
  • Financial Clarity: With three individuals, the financial picture can be complex. All parties should be transparent about their financial situations. Consider creating a joint account for shared expenses, while maintaining individual accounts for personal expenses.

Estate planning for throuples is about ensuring that in times of crisis, health emergencies, or death, the love and commitment shared by all three partners are honored and protected. With proper planning and open communication, throuples can face the future with confidence and security.