When it comes to Orange County LGBT estate planning, same-sex couples face some unique issues. Even with the favorable court decisions seen across the country, it is still important for the LGBT community to consider the unique estate planning issues that they will likely face. In fact, estate planning for LGBTs may be even more critical. Here are six estate planning tips for same-sex couples to consider.
No. 1 – You need to have a will
The basic component of Orange County LGBT estate planning should be the last will and testament. A will is simple, yet powerful and cost-effective. By including a will you can decide who you want to inherit your property, identify an executor for your estate, name a caretaker for any pets you may have, leave instructions regarding forgiving any debts owed to you and other things.
However, if you do not have a will that means you will die intestate, and your property will be distributed to your heirs pursuant to the laws of intestate succession in your state. That is typically not what most people want, especially for same-sex couples who are not married or who cannot get legally married in their state of residence. If that is the case for you, then your state’s intestate succession laws may result in your partner having absolutely not rights to your property at your death.
No. 2 – You may want to take steps so your estate can avoid probate
The reality is that probate is typically a long and expensive legal proceeding that rarely provides any benefit to the estate. The good news is, there are various ways to avoid probate and you may want to use some of these strategies to do so. However, avoiding probate can be more complicated for same-sex couples because there are certain laws that these couples may not be able to take advantage of, particularly laws that only allow assets to pass to legally married spouses, without probate.
If you are looking to avoid probate, you can consider using various estate planning tools such as living trusts, living trusts, transfer-on-death accounts, registrations, and deeds, and joint ownership. If you are not able to avoid probate entirely, many states have some form of simplified probate procedures for small estates. When you start working on your Orange County LGBT estate planning strategies, discuss your options with an estate planning attorney.
No. 3. You should include health care directives in your overall plan
The purpose of health care directives is to give you the opportunity to state your wishes regarding end-of-life health care. This is important if you are ever unable to communicate those wishes yourself. It is also important for same-sex couples because most hospitals will not listen to the wishes of a same-sex partner if they are not legally married.
There are two basic components to a health care directive: a living will and a power of attorney for health care. A living will is a document you use to indicate the type of medical treatment you want or do not want if you are sick or injured. A power of attorney for health care is used to identify the person you want to make decisions regarding your medical treatment if that is ever necessary.
No. 4. Financial powers of attorney may be necessary in the event of incapacity
Financial powers of attorney allow you to give someone else authority over your finances. The authority can be limited or general, depending on your needs. A limited power of attorney can be created for either a specific purpose or for a limited time period. A durable power of attorney can be created now and, in the event you become incapacitated, it will remain effective so that your agent can take over your finances for you.
No. 5. Be sure to use strategies to reduce potential estate taxes
Although most citizens do not need to be worried about estate taxes, there are always some that do. If that happens to be you, then you and your partner need to be prepared so you can reduce your estate tax liability as much as possible. Currently, only estates that exceed $5.49 million in value are required to pay federal estate tax in 2017. That means if you leave behind taxable assets worth less than $5.49 million, federal estate taxes will not be an issue.
No. 6. Don’t forget about final arrangements
Plans for final arrangements should be included in your Orange County LGBT estate planning. You and your partner can create simple documents that specify your wishes regarding your final arrangements. The document can be as detailed as you want. Most final arrangement documents contain provisions regarding your choices on the following:
- burial or cremation
- caskets and urns
- headstones or burial markers
- ceremonies, and
- paying for final arrangements.
Although these documents are not considered legally binding, they are still very beneficial for your loved ones when it comes time to make these important decisions.
If you have questions regarding Orange County LGBT estate planning, trust contests, or any other trust administration issues, please contact the Schomer Law Group either online or by calling us in Los Angeles at (310) 337-7696, and in Orange County at (562) 346-3209.
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