Same-Sex Couples Estate Planning – What You Need to Know
On June 26, 2016, the US Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples have the right to marry in all 50 states. This was a major win for the LGBTQ community. While you have the right to legally marry, same-sex couples estate planning is very important. Many same-sex couples don’t realize that they still need to take additional action. You need to take additional steps to ensure your estate and health-related wishes are upheld in case of incapacitation or death.
Further, if you are in a same-sex relationship and do not wish to get married you need a plan. If you want to protect your assets from outside influence you especially need to have a solid legal plan in place.
The best way to ensure your estate is handled the way you want is to meet with an attorney who specializes in estate planning. They know the ins and outs of this complex process.
However, before you meet with an attorney, it’s best to have general knowledge about the situation. Below are some basics that same-sex couples’ show be familiar with about their rights. You need to have a well thought our plan for your personal desires regarding your estate.
Knowing the basic rights that same-sex couples’ have is an important starting place. Below are a few things you should consider before meeting with an attorney.
Same-Sex Couples Estate Planning – Planning for Your Future
Same-sex marriage is now legally recognized in Florida. This means if something happens to you (e.g., you become incapacitated or pass away), your partner will be able to make decisions on your behalf.
However, if you do not have documentation outlining how you want your affairs handled, there could be issues. Outside forces (e.g., a family member who disapproves of your relationship) may challenge your partner’s rights.
Also, if you and your partner are not legally married, your significant other will have no legal right to make decisions for you. In these cases, family will step in regardless of your desires.
You need a valid and legally enforceable state plan in place. This will help to avoid expensive and emotionally draining issues that could arise in these types of situations. You need to have this regardless of your marital status.
Same-sex couples should meet with an attorney to create:
- Financial Power of Attorney
- Medical Power of Attorney
- HIPPA Release
- Living Will
With these documents the court does not need to get involved in their personal affairs or last-wishes arrangements.
Same-Sex Couples Estate Planning – Planning After You’re Gone
Without a will, when an individual dies, his or her estate goes to probate court. Here a judge will decide how to divide the inheritance. Typically, your estate is likely to go to your parents if they are still living or to your siblings.
You need an estate plan to control your estate after you pass. You need this regardless of your marriage status. By doing this you make the decisions on who will receive your inheritance.
In Florida, legally married couples have a standard process even without an estate plan. In these instances, the state would recognize the other spouse as the main beneficiary for inheritance. This is assuming other arrangements were not made.
However, this right does not stand for same-sex couples who choose not to marry. In this case, if you want your partner to receive your estate, you will need to create a legally executed will. In the will you specifically list your partner as the main beneficiary.
Children of Same-Sex Couples
The situation becomes complicated when same-sex couples have children. Children of same-sex couples are not biologically related to both parents. Thus, if something happens to you or your partner, the child’s other biological parent or family members may attempt to gain custody.
There are other estate-planning issues to keep in mind when you have children. This can include:
- The possibility of disinheritance
- Delays in inheritance
- Elective share issues
- And more
Again, you need to think carefully about these issues and decide how you ultimately want to divide your estate.
For couples with no children or heirs, an attorney can still help. They will help you select beneficiaries and determine the best distribution scheme (e.g., giving a flat amount or a percentage of your estate).
There are many nuances to same-sex couples estate planning. These go beyond the scope of a blog post, so it’s important to contact an experienced Jacksonville Estate Planning Attorney. Spend time to discuss these issues and create a solid estate plan for your future.
Remember, a little planning today can save you, your partner, and your family a great deal of time, energy, and stress.