Just like opposite-sex couples, same-sex couples can benefit greatly from even the simplest estate planning. Same-sex couples are now being offered opportunities and protections that were previously unavailable to them. With the Supreme Court ruling in favor of state recognition of same-sex marriage in 2015, estate planning is on the rise for couples in same-sex marriages. Below are some considerations for same-sex couples to keep in mind while planning for the future.
Before the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage, each state had different laws recognizing varying degrees of same-sex unions. A couple that was legally married in one state, may have not had their marriage recognized in another state. Often couples who had moved states would break-up, assuming their marriage was invalid anyway, and never legally divorce. If this sounds like you, make sure you research whether your previous marriage is still valid.
Comprehensive Estate Plan
A comprehensive estate plan is more than just a will. To truly care for and protect your family, consider creating the following documents:
- Last Will and Testament: A complete Last Will and Testament should clearly outline the following:
- The Executor or Personal Representative
- The Beneficiaries
- Instructions for How and When to Distribute the Assets
- Guardians for Minor Children
- Financial Power of Attorney
- Healthcare Directives: Healthcare directives are a compilation of three specific documents:
- Healthcare Power of Attorney
- Living Will
- HIPPA Authorization
Consider a Living Trust
A living trust is an entity created during the Grantor’s life time to hold and manage assets. After the Grantor’s death, the assets can be distributed directly to the Grantor’s beneficiaries without having to go into probate. Benefits of a living trust include:
- Avoid Probate: Unlike a will, living trusts are not subject to the legally lengthy and often expensive probate process.
- Less Stress: Avoiding probate will relieve your loved ones of undue stress during what will already be an emotional time.
- Privacy: When a will goes through probate, it becomes a public document. Because a living trust does not go through that process, it protects your assets and wishes from becoming publicly accessible.
Protect the Children
Sometimes with same-sex parents, only one parent may be legally recognized. Depending on state rules, same-sex couples may want to consider adoption, or at the very least, detailed estate planning that will protect both the parents’ and the children’s interests as a family unit.
Perhaps the easiest way to plan for your estate is to name beneficiaries on all accounts where such a designation is possible. In general, this means that the assets held in that account will pass to the person(s) you name upon your death. Common accounts that allow for beneficiary designation include:
- Bank Accounts
- Retirement Plans
- Life Insurance Policies