Even considering the groundbreaking court decisions springing up across the country, LGBT estate planning lawyers strongly encouraged Gay and Lesbian couples to create comprehensive estate plans because they were still not allowed the same protections as Heterosexual couples. For that reason, it is still important for the LGBT community to consider the unique estate planning issues that they will likely face.
Q. What if my partner and I don’t want to get legally 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.
Q. Can I include my “alternative family” in my estate plan?
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 LGBT 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.
Q. How can LGBT couples benefit from 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 health care 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 LGBT estate planning lawyers can help you establish the right strategies.
Q. How can I keep my estate plan private?
It is understandable that some members of the gay community may be concerned about their privacy when it comes to their estates and to whom they choose to leave their possessions. Actually, privacy is a common concern for the majority of clients, regardless of their sexual orientation. A revocable living trust is a private contract between the client and the chosen trustee. A trust does not have to be filed in court like a will does. Essentially, it is the probate process that makes your estate plan open to the public. With a living trust, only your trustee will have knowledge of its terms.
Q. What is a domestic partnership agreement and do I need one?
When two individuals live together and share their lives, but are not married, they are involved in a “domestic relationship.” This term applies to all couples – Heterosexual or Gay. A domestic partnership agreement, then, is like a prenuptial agreement for a couple that does not intend to become legally married. Same-sex couples often create these agreements because they cannot legally marry, although they would if they could. In states that recognize domestic partnerships, the domestic partnership agreement can be registered, which allows the same-sex partners to obtain many of the same rights and privileges as Heterosexual married couples.
Q. What should I include in a domestic partnership agreement?
At its heart, a domestic partnership agreement is like any other contract between two parties, creating the legal rights and responsibilities of the parties during the term of their relationship. Some provisions that are typically included in a domestic partnership agreement include the following:
- Which party is responsible for household duties
- Which property is to be considered jointly-owned.
- How income will be shared
- How the property will be divided if the relationship is dissolved
- Provisions for protection from your partner’s debts
Like most contracts, a domestic partnership agreement can be customized to address any particular issue the parties may have. Discuss the terms of your domestic partnership agreement with an estate planning attorney who specializes in LGBT issues, for advice on what to include.
If you have questions regarding 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.