Everyone needs estate planning. Regardless of your age, race, gender, or sexual orientation, properly protecting your future and your loved ones requires a plan. For LGBTQ couples, there are a few things you should consider when thinking about crafting an estate plan. Each couple is unique, and it is our goal to ensure that your personal wishes are carried out and that no one else dictates what should happen with your money, property, or children.
Existing Estate Planning
If you have already had estate planning documents prepared, you should review them periodically. In 2015, in the Obergefell v. Hodges decision, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the right of LGBTQ couples to marry in all 50 states. If your estate planning documents were signed prior to 2015, it is crucial to have a qualified estate planning attorney review them, as same-sex marriage is now recognized in all fifty states, including Texas. This recognition could open up new planning opportunities that may not have been available to you in prior years if you and your partner are now married.
As previously mentioned, with same-sex marriage recognized in all fifty states, now is an opportunity to decide, if you are not married already, whether you and your partner should tie the knot. While there are a lot of emotions behind marriage, there are also estate planning and tax considerations. Depending on your situation, we can sit down and make sure that your estate plan is drafted in such a way that ensures all of your wishes — emotional and financial — will be carried out.
If you have biological or adopted children, you will need to name someone to take care of them should something happen to you. This is especially important if your partner is not the children’s legal parent. Without the proper appointment, the court could end up placing your children with someone you would not have chosen. Alternatively, if you would like to provide for your partner’s children, but you have not adopted them, you will need to make sure that your will or trust specifically states what you would like the children to receive since they would not be entitled to anything otherwise.
Absent estate planning executed by you, state law will fill in the gaps by defaulting to your spouse or blood relatives. For some unmarried individuals, these could be the last individuals you want acting on your behalf or receiving your money and property. If you and your partner are not married and do not plan to get married, you will need to make sure that your estate planning specifically appoints the appropriate people to the roles (e.g., Independent Executor, trustee, agent under a power of attorney, or agent under a medical power of attorney) you want them to have and designates what your partner is to receive at your death. If you have good friends that you consider to be your family or causes that are close to your heart, you will need to have an executed estate plan to protect and provide for your true “family,” whether or not they are blood relatives.
Additionally, if you are estranged from your family, proper planning can ensure that they will have little or no involvement in your affairs after your death, reducing the possibility of contests. This can be done by using a trust to distribute your money and property so that there is no court involvement and only those named in the trust have access to the necessary information, by explicitly stating in your will which family members are to receive nothing, and by including no-contest provisions in your documents.
We are here to help you navigate these sensitive issues. Estate planning can provide you with the peace of mind that comes with knowing that your wishes will be carried out in the way you want after you are gone. Please give us a call so we can schedule an appointment to get you on the path toward protecting your loved ones.
Nielsen Law PLLC provides family focused estate planning to individuals and families in Austin, Round Rock, Cedar Park, and the Central Texas area. For more information and to learn about our firm, please contact us.