Let’s face it; major life events can unearth old family dynamics. In our experience, LGBT couples are particularly vulnerable to having those family conflicts flare up at the time of one partner’s death or incapacity. The best way to protect your partner from having to deal with unsupportive family members during this time of personal tragedy is to have a well thought out, legally binding LGBT estate plan that clearly sets forth your wishes.
What are some examples of nontraditional families?
Nontraditional families can include a smattering of the following: couples that live together in committed, stable, monogamous relationships, but who elect not to get married; couples who are married or committed to one another, but who live apart and maintain separate residences; step-families or other blended families; adult children who live with their parents – often for financial reasons – while they raise their own children; and even three- parent families. There are as many types as families as one can imagine, and not all of them have legal protections. Don’t wait until it’s too late to discover that your family isn’t recognized under the law.
I’m in a same-sex relationship. What are the five most important questions for me to consider?
- Are you married?
- Do you live in a state where your marriage is recognized?
- If you have kids, have you both adopted your children?
- Does your family like your spouse or partner?
- Will your partner be financially self-sufficient upon your death or incapacity?
My husband and I are gay. We have two dogs. We also own a couple of rental properties and our home. We were married outside the state of Washington. Won’t all of our assets pass to one another tax-free, just like opposite sex couples?
Maybe. But, to ensure more certainty, it is probably a good idea to prepare your estate plan, particularly since you own property together. Now that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) has been declared unconstitutional, all married couples can enjoy the benefits of certain estate and gift tax savings deductions.
Some laws have changed, but some have not. The interplay makes it all the more important to review your particular LGBT estate planning situation with an attorney.
In the state of Washington we now have marriage equality. As of January, 2014, certain tax savings are now available to same sex couples. In order to ensure that at your death, your property passes in a manner you wish, it’s important that you talk to us so we can help you develop a plan to minimize the tax burdens to your estate. And don’t forget the dogs! A comprehensive estate plan can address your pets.
My wife and I are lesbians and we were recently married in Washington. We haven’t started a family yet, and we don’t have a lot of assets. Are there LGBT estate planning issues we should be thinking about?
Yes. You may want to talk to an attorney before you begin starting a family and you will certainly want to update your estate plan once you have children. But it’s probably a good idea to get your health care documents in order now. No one wants to think about the possibility of a sudden injury, but it does happen. If something happens to one of you while you are in the state of Washington, chances are that our hospitals and providers will honor and recognize your spouse as your family. The trouble is that laws vary from state to state. For example, let’s say you head to New Orleans for Mardi Gras or the Jazz Festival and something happens to one of you. The last thing you want is to have to pretend that you’re sisters just to be able to be at your wife’s bedside. There are legal papers that you can prepare now that will better ensure that your relationship is honored, even when you are out of state.
My wife and I are lesbian. We are married with two children. My wife gave birth to our son and I gave birth to our daughter. The children have both of our names. Are there LGBT estate planning issues we should be thinking about?
Yes. First, it might seem like a silly question, but it’s actually critical – have you both legally adopted both children? Again, your rights are not honored in some states across the country in the same way that they are in Washington. So, for example, if something happens to your son while you are traveling with him on an enrichment trip back east, the last thing you want is for there to be any obstacle preventing you from being with him in the hospital. It’s a very good idea for you and your wife to prepare estate plans that include provisions for guardianship for your children and trusts so that your assets will be preserved for them. Don’t leave your children vulnerable.
If you have further questions or want to arrange a confidential consultation concerning LGBT estate planning, please contact us today. We have offices in Seattle and Bellevue and can meet with you in one or both of those locations as needed. We look forward to meeting you and helping you achieve the LGBT estate planning solutions you seek.