Whether married or in a domestic partnership, there are still important steps that LGBT couples and families need to take to plan for their future. There have been many unfortunate instances of LGBT individuals being kept from inheriting their partner’s assets or participating in important decisions after their loved one’s death. To help you avoid this kind of situation, here are important estate-planning tips.
Make sure you have an up-to-date will. A will allows you to decide what happens to your property after you die, and who will take care of your children or other dependents (if any) including pets.
Consider creating a trust. A trust is a financial arrangement that arranges for the transfer of property either while you’re alive (living trust) or after you die (testamentary trust). If you have small children, this can be a useful way to transfer your assets.
Think about real estate. If you own property, it’s probably your biggest asset. If you’re buying a house with your partner, consider how you want to own it, e.g., in equal or unequal shares. It’s important to understand the different types of ownership choices.
Don’t shy away from a prenuptial agreement. Yes, it’s not particularly romantic, and some people feel it suggests a lack of trust. But marriage is more than an emotional commitment – it’s also a financial and legal arrangement. Better to agree on the legal aspects of your marriage before you tie the knot, to avoid unexpected legal tangles later.
Consider whether a Domestic Partnership Agreement (DPA) might work for you. If you’re not married, or you’re already married, a DPA might meet your needs.
Think about protecting your loved ones with insurance. Life insurance can be a useful tool in your estate planning, to help provide for your partner or spouse (and children, if applicable) and pay for final arrangements when you’re gone.
Designate a beneficiary for your retirement and other assets. The beneficiary is the person who will receive your assets when you die, including retirement accounts (401Ks, IRAs, etc.) and life insurance policies.
Plan for hospitalizations with advance directives. Also called Living Wills or Health Care Powers of Attorney, advance directives name the person responsible for carrying out your health care wishes if you’re unable. Federal law requires hospitals and other health care facilities to honor these documents. Without an advance directive, you could be prevented from participating in your partner’s health care, or even from visiting each other in the hospital.
Get other documents in order: General Durable Power of Attorney, HIPAA Authorization and Designation of Agent. These documents give you and your partner or spouse the authority to make decisions on each other’s behalf.
In all situations, consult a qualified professional. And consider researching the growing number of professionals now specializing on the needs of LGBT families.