Estate Planning Issues For Same Sex Couples
If you are a same sex or LGBTQ couple, since 2015, and even currently with the passage of new federal laws, states cannot prohibit you from marrying, and your marriage carries the same legal force and effect as heterosexual couples. From an estate planning standpoint, that means that estate planning for LGBTQ couples is no different than anybody else’s planning. That is, if you are married.
If you are not married, as a same-sex couple, you may have some additional estate planning considerations to keep in mind, and you may have to take some extra steps to ensure that the property you have when you pass, goes to the people you want to get it.
Regardless of what the law says, prejudice still exists in this world. Don’t assume that everybody will immediately recognize your same sex marriage, even if it is legal. A good estate plan should be a priority for all same-sex couples, married or not, and regardless of the status of the law. It can help you avoid inherent bias and prejudice that your survivors may encounter.
Using a Will
A will is still a simple way of passing property; it doesn’t matter who recognizes your marriage as legal or not—the will leaves your property to whomever you designate, and avoids any prejudice, ambiguity, confusion, or even any future change in the legal status of same sex couples that may happen.
If you are unmarried, you should take steps to make sure that your partner gets the property that you want them to get. Your property won’t automatically transfer the way it will when you are married. Things like life estates, joint property ownership, or transfer on death accounts, all can help you avoid the probate process.
Once again, even if you are married, don’t assume that health care providers will just automatically respect your otherwise legal marriage. A health care directive will tell health care providers who speaks for you, or who makes medical decisions for you, regardless of marital status.
Remember that having solid estate planning documents for same sex couples is especially important where families may not respect or recognize your same sex relationship. You may find family more willing to challenge your estate plan, or less willing to accept that you have left certain property to a same sex partner. But a good, well drafted estate plan can easily defeat any challenges to your estate by family who may be upset, or unwilling to accept your same sex relationship.
You may want to consider a financial power of attorney, giving your same sex partner control to manage your financial affairs, if you suspect that your partner and your family (or your partner’s family) may have an issue with your partner handing these affairs for you, if you are not in a condition to do so for yourself.
Call the Torrance will attorneys at Samuel Ford Law today for help tailoring an estate plan that works for, and which protects you.