In the not-so-distant past, Long Beach LGBTQ estate planning lawyers strongly encouraged gay and lesbian couples to create comprehensive estate plans because they were not allowed the same protections as heterosexual couples. Even considering the groundbreaking court decisions springing up across the country, it is still important for the LGBTQ community to consider the unique estate planning issues that they will likely face. In fact, estate planning for LGBTs may be even more critical.
Overcoming Residual Bias against the LGBTQ Community
Until very recently, gay marriage was illegal in most states. Not only that, it was considered taboo or immoral by many. While the law may have changed, the personal beliefs of many, still have not. So, even though gay spouses may now have a protected right to inherit from each other, the social stigma with which they have lived for years still exists. In some unfortunate cases, families have disowned or ostracized members who are openly gay. Therefore, without proper estate planning, LGBTQ individuals may continue to be disinherited, despite now being allowed to legally marry.
Not every same-sex couple wants to get married
Another reality is that, like many heterosexual couples, there are gay couples who do not actually want to get married. Without a legal marriage, a gay partner is not considered an heir. Yet, it should not be necessary for couples to get married simply to be able to inherit from one another. Because we never know when our last day will come, it is important to plan for the future with an estate plan, regardless of whether or not marriage is on the horizon. Creating a will or a trust allows you to choose how your assets and personal effects will be distributed upon your death.
Planning for Alternative Families
As a result of families refusing to accept their gay members over the last few decades, many gay seniors have developed strong ties to their so-called “chosen families.” These are the people selected by members of the LGBTQ community to replace strong family bonds that were either lost due to social stigmas the unwillingness to accept their lifestyle. Consequently, some gay seniors, who are now permitted to marry their long-time partners, may not consider the fact that even once married, those same family members may still harbor the same bias or unwillingness for acceptance.
The Benefits of a Power of Attorney
In the heterosexual community, there are many horror stories of couples who failed to establish powers of attorney or advance directives, which delineate their end-of-life wishes. The unfortunate consequence is that the family is then left to make those impossible decisions, and often do not agree on how to proceed.
In most cases, the hospital or another healthcare provider will defer to the decisions of the legal spouse. Yet, that automatic deference is not guaranteed with same-sex spouses. With a power of attorney, you can make your intentions clear to the world by authorizing your same-sex spouse to be in charge of those difficult decisions, should that time ever come. That is true regardless of whether you are married or not. Our Long Beach LGBTQ estate planning lawyers can help you establish the right strategies.
Medical Decision Making for Gay Couples
It is easy for heterosexual married couples to take for granted many of their rights and privileges in our country. For example, there is no question that a husband can visit his wife in the hospital and make decisions regarding her medical care if required. However, these same rights are not available to all gay couples. In 2014, only 32 states and the District of Columbia have legalized gay marriage. California joined this number in June of 2013. However, there are still issues that unmarried gay couples face, including in the area of medical care. Our Long Beach LGBTQ estate planning lawyers are ready to help you deal with these issues.
Establishing the power to make medical decisions for your partner
Unfortunately, the LGBTQ community continues to struggle with numerous legal challenges, as the perceptions of same-sex relationships continue to evolve in each state, and in the country as a whole. California does not, at this time, have a similar law in place, as the one in New York.
State and federal laws dictate who has the authority to make health care decisions for someone else if they become unable to do so themselves. The majority of these laws apply to, and often favor, couples who are legally married. However, there are several estate planning tools that can be used to bestow the authority to make medical decisions, on behalf of a same-sex partner. These tools are called advanced directives.
If you have questions regarding LGBTQ estate planning needs, please contact the experienced lawyers at the Schomer Law Group either online or by calling us at (310) 337-7696.
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