Estate Planning is crucial for all individuals, but it can be even more important for LGBTQ couples. As LGBTQ marriage equality laws continue to evolve, same-sex couples may face a variety of legal and personal challenges when it comes to their estate plans.
LGBT Estate Planning can protect LGBT couples’ rights to inherit property, avoid probate, and minimize tax burdens. It can also ensure that their wishes are carried out during their lifetime, and their assets will pass to their loved ones in the manner they desire after their death.
Same-sex couples with children
Same-sex couples who have children can be particularly vulnerable to a number of issues that might arise after the death of one partner. These include contested wills, disputes caused by family members who refuse to recognize the relationship, and interference from the surviving partner’s family on financial and medical decisions.
As a result, it’s essential to have an estate plan for same-sex couples with children. This includes a will, health care proxy, and powers of attorney to ensure that if something were to happen, the surviving partner would be taken care of without question.
As with any couple, same-sex couples should keep their bank and retirement account beneficiary designations up to date. Moreover, if their relationship ends before the marriage is legalized, they need to be sure that their prior partners have no legal interest in their assets.
Same-sex couples without children
Same-sex couples who do not have children often have unique estate planning concerns that cannot be avoided. For example, they may not want to disinherit their children when they die or have a legal battle over custody.
These same-sex couples can avoid many of these issues by making sure that they have a few key estate planning tools in place. These include durable powers of attorney for financial and medical decisions, a living will, advance directives, and a declaration of pre-need guardian.
They can also keep their beneficiary designations up-to-date and ensure that they are passing their assets on to the right people when they pass away.
These same-sex couples can make this process easier by contacting an experienced estate planning attorney who can advise them on how to plan for their unique situation. Their advice can be based on the laws of their state and local area and ensure that their wishes are respected.
Same-sex couples who are not married
If you’re a same-sex couple who is not married, you have a unique estate planning need. Unlike married couples, you will not receive the benefits of state and federal laws designed to protect married people from probate and taxation.
You also may not have any control over your assets in case of an accident or illness that renders you incapacitated or unable to make your own decisions. Consequently, you need an estate plan that provides lifetime protection in the event of incapacity and ensures your assets are passed to your loved ones as soon as possible without any hassle or extra taxation.
Your spouse may need a medical power of attorney to make important medical decisions on your behalf, such as whether you can have surgery or if you should be kept alive in an induced coma, for example. It’s also essential to make sure that your partner has a durable financial power of attorney in case you become unable to handle your finances yourself.
Same-sex couples who are married
As with any couple, LGBTQ same-sex couples should have comprehensive estate planning that addresses all potential legal concerns and family issues. These can include contested wills, adoption of children, interference from spouses’ family members on financial and medical decisions after death or incapacity and more.
Even after marriage equality laws were enacted in 2015, same-sex couples still face unique challenges and concerns that require careful consideration and professional guidance. For example, same-sex couples can now create living trusts, joint ownership and Transfer-on-Death Accounts (TODA) to avoid probate and to maximize the value of their assets.
Additionally, same-sex couples can use advance directives such as health care proxies, durable powers of attorney and living wills to ensure their wishes are known regarding health care treatment or procedures in the event they become incapacitated. These documents help medical professionals understand how to treat a loved one who is terminally ill and can protect the rights of both partners.