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Real Estate Planning Blog

Friday, June 30, 2017

Estate Planning for Same-Sex Couples

What estate planning tools should same-sex couples use to protect themselves and their family?

Estate planning is a crucial step for all couples, but for same-sex couples, creating a thorough estate plan is all the more important.  Same-sex couples often have unique situations that require careful planning.  While the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationally in the United States in 2015, the prior patchwork of state laws still impacts estate planning for same-sex couples today.  For same-sex couples that are not legally married, it is especially important to have an estate plan in place to avoid the possibility of one partner being shut out of the health care and financial decision making process in the event  of disability of the other partner.  Worse still, without proper planning, the surviving partner could possibly be excluded from the estate of the deceased partner.  Our Staten Island estate planning lawyers discuss some steps same-sex couples should take to prepare for their future.
 
  • Be Sure of Your Marital Status

    Before 2015, some states recognized same-sex marriages, while others did not.  Same-sex couples often wed in states that allowed their marriage, but then moved to states that did not honor the marriage.  Couples may have presumed the marriage was not valid, and therefore did not take further steps to dissolve it if they split up.  This has led to some people being legally married without knowing it.  Consult with a lawyer to make sure your marital status is up to date and correct. 

  • Don’t Stop With a Will

    A will is an important first step for all couples.  Without a will in place, same-sex couples could find their assets going to unintended parties if one or both of the spouses or partners pass away.  However, same-sex couples with previous relationships, children from other marriages, or adopted children, you should consider going beyond a will.  Trusts can help to prevent any concerns about a battle over your assets upon your death.   Anyone with a complex or estranged family should anticipate probate battles, which trusts can avoid because they allow assets to pass without the need for probate.  

  • Create a Health Care Proxy

    While none of us wish to consider the possibility of becoming incapacitated, it is essential that same-sex couples have a valid Health Care Proxy in place so that your spouse or partner can make medical decisions for you as necessary.  A Health Care Proxy will ensure that if you cannot make medical decisions on your own, your spouse or partner can step in to make them for you.  Having a Health Care Proxy in place can prevent any challenges by other family members or the medical facility.  Same-sex couples should take steps to protect their legacy now by contacting an experienced estate planning lawyer in their area.                                                                                                                           
  • Create a Power of Attorney

    While none of us wish to consider the possibility of becoming incapacitated, it is essential that same-sex couples have a valid power of attorney in place so that your spouse can make financial decisions for you as necessary.  A power of attorney will ensure that if you cannot make financial decisions on your own, your spouse or partner can step in to make them for you.  Having a power of attorney in place can prevent any challenges by other family members or financial institutions.  Same-sex couples should take steps to protect their legacy now by contacting an experienced estate planning lawyer in their area. 





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