Estate planning is for everyone and if you are a part of the LGBTQ community, it may be even more important for you to consider your plans for your assets after you pass. The idea is of course daunting, but to protect your loved ones, it’s crucial to have your wishes documented and a well laid plan for your estate and family. With same-sex marriage being legally recognized in 2015, this opened up benefits that same-sex couples were previously unable to take advantage of. But even with legal tax-savings and other marriage benefits, there are many considerations in which LGBTQ couples may need some extra planning.
Special Estate Planning Considerations for LGBTQ+ Couples
- Double Check Your Beneficiaries– Although we highly recommend having a will, if you don’t have one then you need to check where your assets are going once you’re gone. If you aren’t married but in a serious relationship, consider if you want your wealth to be left to your partner, or to a family member. Without having a will, if something happens to you, then the decision is made by your state, which means your assets could be divided among your surviving family members, even if you aren’t in touch with them. Oftentimes states do not consider domestic partners in their decisions, so it’s best to make your wishes legally known.
- Unsupportive Family Members– It’s unfortunate that so many LGBTQ people have to deal with family members who aren’t supportive of them because of their own biases. Because you may find yourself in this situation, even if it isn’t all of your family or a close family member, you need to protect yourself against those people fighting for what isn’t theirs. There’s been many cases of families contesting wills in which assets are going to a partner, because they don’t deem the relationship valid. If you’re married, it is easier to prove that your assets would most likely be going to your spouse, but if you aren’t legally married and still in a serious long term relationship, then you should consider having at the very least a will in which you name your partner as the heir of your assets. If you don’t have documentation proving where you want your assets to go, it is possible that your family members may be able to petition for your assets, disinheriting your partner.
- Protecting Your Children– With special circumstances for how you grow your family, protecting your children has some extra considerations. Be it adoption, or only one parent being the biological parent, make sure that if something happens to you, that your child will still be in the care of your partner, and that they would be receiving any of your assets that you want them to. Laws may be different in each state when it comes to guardianship for children, so it’s best to consult with a professional in your state to make sure they are protected in the way you want.
- Healthcare Wishes– along with making sure your financial affairs are deemed to be taken care of by who you want, make sure your healthcare decisions will be left to who you want as well. If you were to become incapacitated, without proper documentation like a Healthcare Power of Attorney, or a HIPAA form, your partner may not be able to care for you or even be made aware of your condition. Any of your pain management, or end of life care decisions may be made by doctors instead of your loved one.
- Make Sure You’re Legally Free From Past Partnerships– Before same-sex marriage was legalized in 2015, there was a very tangled web of different laws and stipulations for civil unions and domestic partnerships that varied by state. If you’ve been in a past relationship that was made legal where you lived, and say you’re no longer in that relationship or you may have moved to a different state, check if there’s anything you need to do to ensure you’re no longer legally connected to your ex partner. A lot of people can come out of the woodwork when there’s money involved, so make sure your assets are protected and going to who you want them to.
If you want to protect your assets and your loved ones, consider creating a proper estate plan. A proper estate plan is crucial for members of the LGBTQIA+ community, as there are complex challenges that you may face. Take care of your partner and your loved ones and consult a professional in your state. If you are in Illinois or Wisconsin, we are here to help you. Send us an email with questions or concerns. We’re happy to get you on the right track.
Disclaimer: This article is intended to serve as a general summary of the issues outlined therein. While this article may include general guidance, it is not intended as, nor is a substitute for, qualified legal advice. Your review or receipt of this article by Lexern Law Offices, Ltd. (the “LLG”) or any of its attorneys does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and the LLG. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors of the article and does not reflect the opinion of the LLG.