While all couples can benefit from estate planning, same sex couples often have special situations that require additional attention. For one thing, observes Ohio attorney Joan Burda in “Estate Planning for Same-Sex Couples”, families of same-sex couples are more apt to contest the will. Funding a trust often evades that problem because trusts don’t go through probate, Burda adds.
Even in today’s more progressive environment, LGBT spouses tend to be challenged when it comes to making medical decisions for incapacitated life partners (by both medical practitioners and family members). Health care powers of attorney and living wills authorize doctors to share medical information and allows a healthy spouse to make decisions – both medical and spiritual – for an incapacitated spouse.
Indiana statutes permit unmarried same sex partners to adopt children, as well as to use artificial insemination to conceive a child with both partners becoming legal parents of that child. And, as of January of this year, married same-sex couples in Indiana can list both parents on children’s birth certificates.
In a sense, planning for final arrangements is no more and no less an issue – and no harder or easier – for same sex couples than for traditional ones. As part of an estate plan final arrangement documents might talk about:
- burial or cremation
- caskets and urns
- headstones or burial markers
- type of ceremony
– as well as where the money should come from to pay for those arrangements. The reason this kind of planning may prove particularly useful in the case of same sex couples, is that often parents or other family members may have strong opinions on the subject of end-of-life care and death ceremonies; planning can ensure the couple’s wishes are carried out.
Unmarried couples in general are at an actual disadvantage when it comes to the survivor maintaining his/her standard of living since they are not eligible for Social security or pension survivorship benefits. Unmarried couples need to provide for one another in their respective estate planning to ensure assets pass to their partner effectively, and that they can make decisions for each other for finances and health care.
Where there’s a will, same sex couples, both married and unmarried, need to go beyond!
Ronnie of the Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates blog team