Estate planning is important for everyone; however, it cam be even more important for members of the LGBTQ community. Because of the unique, and often varied, legal position that a partner has among the states, estate planning is of particular importance in order to ensure that your partner is provided for in the event of your death, and recognized in the event of your incapacity. While each situation is unique, consider incorporating the following tools into your estate plan:
Last Will and Testament: This is your chance to leave specific items or assets to your partner in the event of your death. You may also wish to appoint him or her as executor of your estate. Wills may be all that is needed for transfers at death for modest, simple estates.
Trust: A trust can potentially be used in a variety of ways. It may allow control of assets to pass to your partner in the event of your incapacity. It can also provide a direct route for assets to pass upon your death without the need for them to go through probate. Trusts generally work better than Wills for estates that include real estate or are moderate to large in size.
Advance Health Care Directive: This critical document allows you to legally appoint your partner to make healthcare decisions for you in the event of your incapacity. It can overcome problems with decision making and visitation should there be a hostile family environment.
Financial power of attorney: A power of attorney can be used to give your partner the legal authority to act as your agent in legal transactions. If the POA is made durable, this authority will also survive your incapacity in most states.
Pay on Death Accounts: Financial accounts and titles can sometimes be converted to “pay on death” accounts. Typically, this means that ownership of the asset will immediately transfer to your partner upon your death. In the case of bank accounts, the funds held in the account will be payable to your partner upon your death. Use of POD accounts has its pros and cons. Get competent legal advice before using this strategy.
The best place to start in your planning efforts is to consult with an experienced and qualified estate planning attorney who is familiar with the special concerns of the LGBTQ community.