Estate Planning for Same Sex Couples

Legal Article

Estate Planning for Same Sex Couples

Estate Planning for Same-Sex Couples

Estate planning for same-sex couples may often seem complex or confusing. Whether you are, married or not, you may find the process difficult to understand. The good news, however, is that estate planning for same-sex couples does not have to be complex. Because of the recent changes in estate planning laws, it’s important to speak with Washington, D.C. estate planning attorney who has experience handling estate planning for the LGTBQ community.

In the landmark case of Obergefell v. Hodges, 2015, the Supreme Court upheld the rights of same-sex couples to marry in all 50 states. This important Supreme Court eliminated many of the challenges that previously made estate planning for same-sex couples a complicated and time-consuming process. With the new law, same-sex couples interested in estate planning now have access to the same estate planning tools that had been available heterosexual couples and can take advantage of the same tax treatment before the internal revenue service. In the world of estate planning law, this was a game changed and a historic event for the LGTBQ community.

As an estate planning attorney what I have noticed hasn’t changed however is that couples same-sex, or otherwise still do not focus enough time thinking about their estates. For many couples, estate planning is something that remains to be done of another day. However, for couples who have not yet legally married, or have decided to remain in a domestic partnership, this could mean your assets will not be protected and your domestic partner is left potentially with nothing upon your death. Thus, with this in mind, there are a few recommendations we have when it comes to estate planning for same-sex couples.

Recommendations for Same-Sex Couples Who are not Married

In the absence any estate planning documents non-married domestic partners may be placed in a very precarious position regarding each partners estate, Specifically:

  • Domestic partners may have difficulty accessing the distribution of benefits when the insured partner passes away,
  • Domestic partners have no legal authority to access the other domestic partner’s medical information or make important decisions on their medical care absent a living will or healthcare power of attorney,
  • Domestic partners will not receive any part of your estate, including property held in the decedent’s name as they are not intestate heirs of the estate. In addition, they may lack proper standing to open a probate estate of their deceased partner.
  • Thus for Same-Sex Couples Who are not Married, it is critical that if they intend to benefit their partner, that they undertake some basic estate planning to govern the distribution of their estate and to ensure that someone is nominated to make medical decisions in the event of their incapacity.

Recommendations for Same-Sex Couples

To ensure you and your partner are covered in the event of a death or period of incapacity, there are some a few estate planning documents you need to to have prepared to make sure you are covered.

A Last Will and Testament: A last will and testament is a written document with instructions for the distribution of an individual’s assets after death. Without a will, your partner will not automatically inherit anything from your estate if you are not married.

Living Will: Having a living will and/or healthcare power of attorney is important for couples in a domestic partnership. Unless you are legally married, your partner will have no authority to make decisions on your medical treatment. A written document that states you do not wish to be kept alive by artificial means when the illness or injury is terminal

Health Care Power of Attorney: A legal document appointing someone to act as one’s agent to make health care decisions for you should you become incapacitated.

Durable Power of Attorney: A durable power of attorney will allow your partner to handle financial decisions in the event you become injured or disabled.

Beneficiary Designations: It’s important to ensure all your beneficiary designations are up to date on all of your accounts. This includes life insurance, bank accounts, retirement accounts, annuities, investment accounts, and others.

A Revocable Living Trust: A last will and testament is the bare minimum you should have. A revocable living trust is an entity that holds assets for the benefit of certain other persons or entities. A trust that by its terms may be terminated by the settlor or by another person. If you are considering forming a revocable trust, you can put your assets into the trust, which helps avoid probate, which can be expensive and time-consuming and is very public legal proceeding.

Hiring a Washington DC Estate Planning Attorney

Estate planning can appear difficult for many couples, but it doesn’t have to be. With the proper guidance, estate planning for same-sex couples can be an easy process. When you decide to hire an experienced estate planning attorney, they will be responsible for making sure that all of your assets are included in your comprehensive estate plan. In addition, an experienced estate planning attorney will know the right questions to ask you and your partner to make sure that any other potential estate planning issues are addressed. For same-sex couples it is important to find an experienced estate planning attorney that you feel comfortable working with and that has the experience and judgment to make your estate plan a success.

If you need assistance with estate planning in Washington DC, contact Antonoplos & Associates at 202-803-5676 to schedule a consultation. Let one of our skilled estate planning attorneys help you with all your estate planning needs.