LGBTQ+ Couples: Important Estate Planning Considerations
Each couple is unique, and it is our goal to ensure that your personal wishes are carried out and that no one else is dictating what should happen with your money, property, or children.
Existing Estate Planning
If you have already had estate planning documents prepared, you should review them periodically. If your estate planning documents were signed prior to 2015, it is crucial to have a qualified estate planning attorney review them, as same-sex marriage is now recognized in all fifty states. This recognition could open up new planning opportunities that may not have been available to you in prior years if you and your partner are now married.
As previously mentioned, with same-sex marriage recognized in all fifty states, now is an opportunity to decide, if you are not married already, whether you and your partner should tie the knot. While there are a lot of emotions behind marriage, there are also estate planning and tax considerations. Depending on your situation, we can sit down and make sure that your estate plan is drafted in such a way that ensures all of your wishes—emotional and financial—will be carried out.
If you have children, biological or adopted, you will need to name someone to take care of them should something happen to you. This is especially important if your partner is not the children’s legal parent. Without the proper appointment, the court could end up placing your children with someone you would not have chosen. Alternatively, if you would like to provide for your partner’s children, but you have not adopted them, you will need to make sure that your will or trust specifically states what you would like the children to receive since they would not be entitled to anything otherwise.
Absent estate planning executed by you, state law will fill in the gaps by defaulting to your spouse or blood relatives. For some unmarried individuals, these could be the last individuals you want acting on your behalf or receiving your money and property. If you and your partner are not married and do not plan to get married, you will need to make sure that your estate planning specifically appoints them to the roles (e.g., personal representative, trustee, agent under a power of attorney, or patient advocate under a medical power of attorney) you want them to have and designates what your partner is to receive upon your death. If you have good friends that you consider to be your family or causes that are close to your heart, you will need to have an executed estate plan to protect and provide for your true “family,” whether or not they are blood relatives.
If you and your partner are unmarried, despite the laws regarding same-sex marriage, there are still critical issues regarding healthcare decisions, visitation, and access to medical information. Depending on your state and family circumstances, these issues can result in harsh, unfortunate, and unintended consequences. For these and so many other reasons, it is important your healthcare directives are completed and current.
Additionally, if you are estranged from your family, proper planning can ensure that they will have little or no involvement in your affairs after your death, reducing the possibility of contests. This can be done by using a trust to distribute your money and property so that there is no court involvement and only those named in the trust have access to the necessary information, by explicitly stating in your will which family members are to receive nothing and by including no-contest provisions in your documents.
We are here to help you navigate this sensitive issue. Estate planning can provide you with the peace of mind that comes with knowing that your wishes will be carried out in the way you want after you are gone. Please give us a call at 301.892.2713 so we can schedule an appointment to get you on the path toward protecting your loved ones.
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