Estate planning is important for people from all walks of life. After the legalization of same-sex marriage, LGBTQ estate planning for couples in same-sex marriages became similar to estate planning for those in opposite-sex marriages. You have all of the same estate planning issues that exist from opposite-sex marriages. Deciding who will manage your affairs, who will benefit from all of your assets, who will make medical decisions for you, and manage assets in the event there is a disability. You may be worried about the costs associated with a nursing home if one of you falls ill, and you may want to ensure your spouse is provided for in the event of a death or disability, and make sure your family doesn’t have to endure the probate process. Often times, the marriage may consist of children from a previous relationship or marriage, and you may need help planning around the many issues specific to blended families.
However, those in domestic partnerships or less formal relationships will encounter the same estate planning concerns they had prior to the legalization of same-sex marriages.
It is vital to ensure that your estate plan not only addresses what happens at your death, but addresses what will happen in the event of an illness or disability, that leaves you unable to care for yourself, your partner, and your finances.
Wills and Trusts
These documents are important for all married couples, but they are particularly important for those members of the LQBTQ community who are not married, but who are in a serious relationship. If a person dies without a Will, the assets generally pass to the next of kin. If you are married then your spouse will inherit, but if you are in a domestic partnership or other serious relationship, the property may pass to someone whom you would not have chosen to inherit, leaving your loved one with nothing. By putting a Will in place, you can direct property, or other assets to be passed to your partner, even if the person is not your legal spouse.
It may be beneficial to create a trust. A trust allows you to transfer your assets into it, appoint someone to manage your assets in the event you are unable to, and state who will benefit from your assets when you pass, all without court involvement.
It is more expensive to create a trust. However, the benefits of the trust far outweigh the initial expense. Trusts avoid court involvement, take less time to distribute assets to the beneficiaries, are less likely to be contested by other family members, and offer you privacy.
Health Care Power of Attorney
A Healthcare Power of Attorney allows you to decide who will make medical decisions for you in the event you become incapacitated and you are unable to make them for yourself. A Healthcare Power of Attorney is particularly important for same-sex couples that are unmarried or in a domestic partnership. This document will allow your partner to make vital care and end of life decisions, rather than a family member or someone else, who may be fighting for this right to make these decisions for you.
The HIPAA (“Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act”) is an authorization that gives any and all of your medical providers the written permission to share your medical with the individuals you have named. Without these written instructions, your partner and family members may not be informed about your condition. Hospitals can refuse to disclosure to them that you are even in the hospital, and even deny them option to visit.
Property Power of Attorney
The Property Power of Attorney gives the person whom you choose the ability to make financial decisions for you in the event you are alive, but unable to manage your money and finances. Whether married or not, you need to give either your spouse, or partner the legally authority to do this, as this will not happen without this valid Power of Attorney in place, resulting in your loved one having to go to court in order to do so.
We are proud to serve the LBGTQ community and have many clients, friends, and family members who are part of this community, and we are proud to be a part of their family, and have them be a part of ours.