Estate Planning for Same Sex Couples
If you are a same sex couple, married or not, you may feel overwhelmed when it comes to estate planning. Because there may be nuances in laws in varying states, it’s important to speak with a Washington DC estate planning attorney who has experience handling estate planning for the LGBT community.
In 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges upholding that same-sex couples have the same right to marry in all 50 states. This means that estate planning has become easier, as many of the same tools are now available for spouses, whether you are a heterosexual or same-sex couple.
On the flip side, couples still do not spend enough time thinking about and planning for their future. For couples who have not yet married, or have chosen to remain in a civil union, this could mean your assets will not be protected and your domestic partner is left with nothing upon your death. Here are some things to think about when it comes to estate planning for same-sex couples.
Concerns for Same-Sex Couples Who are not Married
Absent any clearly defined estate planning documents for non-married domestic partners, your loved one:
- Could have difficulty with the distribution of benefits when the insured passes away,
- Has no legal authority to access your medical information or make important decisions on your medical care,
- Will not receive any part of your estate, including property held in the decedent’s name.
Important Estate Planning Tools for Same Sex Couples
To ensure you and your partner are protected in the event of death, there are some important estate planning tools you need to utilize.
- Will: Even if something changes with state laws, having a will can ensure your express wishes are honored upon passing. Without a will, your partner will not automatically inherit anything from your estate if you are not married.
- Living Will / Health Care Power of Attorney: Having a living will and/or healthcare power of attorney is important for couples in a domestic partnership. Unless you are legally married, your partner will have no authority to make decisions on your medical treatment.
- Durable Power of Attorney: A durable power of attorney will allow your partner to handle financial decisions in the event you become injured or disabled.
- Beneficiary Designations: It’s important to ensure all your beneficiary designations are up to date. This includes life insurance, bank accounts, retirement accounts, annuities, etc.
- Trust: A will is the bare minimum you should have. If you consider forming a trust, you can put your assets into the trust, which helps avoid probate, which can be expensive and time consuming.
Retaining a Washington DC Estate Planning Attorney
Estate planning can seem daunting for many couples, but it doesn’t have to be. When you retain an experienced estate planning attorney, they will make sure all assets are included. They also know what questions to ask to ensure all other potential issues are addressed.
If you need assistance with estate planning in Washington DC, contact Tobin, O’Connor & Ewing at 202-362-5900 to schedule a consultation. Let one of our skilled attorneys help with all your estate planning needs.