There are those who are under the impression that the government will simply absorb ownership of your assets if you pass away without leaving behind a will. Someone who does so is said to die “intestate,” and though intestacy is not something that you’d want to aim for there are in fact rules of descent in place to determine who would inherit your personal possessions. For example, if you are married your husband or wife would be the individual who naturally assumes possession of your property.
Of course this is not to say that you should simply avoid estate planning altogether and let the chips fall as they may, and there are a number of reasons for this. There are many things to take into consideration when you’re preparing for any and all eventualities, and the best way to transfer your assets is going to vary depending on the specifics of your situation. Yet, the worst case scenario for married people is palatable for most.
However, if you’re in a long-term committed relationship with someone who you consider to be your lifelong partner you don’t have the same protections. Therefore, having an estate plan in place is an absolute necessity for people in this situation.
Although same-sex marriages are currently legally recognized in all states, given the current state of the federal judiciary, one cannot be certain that the laws will remain the same in the future. Accordingly, same-sex couples must be proactive about asserting their wishes through the utilization of the correct estate planning documents. While the legality of same sex marriages may not survive a future court challenge, it is not likely that it will affect such marriages that were legally created before the law changes.
But of course there are many opposite sex couples who choose not to marry for one reason or another and these people also must have an estate plan in place to be certain that their wishes are carried out after they pass away. The best way to address these critical issues is to work closely with an experienced and qualified estate planning attorney.