Estate Planning for Same-Sex Couples
LGBTQ couples have long faced some unique estate planning challenges. However, recent victories for marriage equality have helped to bring some additional fairness and simplicity. In the 2015 case of Obergefell v. Hodges, the Supreme Court of the United States held that the fundamental right to marry is guaranteed to same-sex couples. For estate planning purposes, a same-sex couple with a lawfully recognized marriage is in much the same position as a heterosexual couple. An unmarried LGBTQ couple should take some additional estate planning measures to ensure full protection. Here, our San Diego estate planning attorney offer four estate planning tips for same-sex couples in California.
1. A Will is Your Core Estate Planning DocumentEveryone needs a will. Alarmingly, a recent study found that members of the LGBTQ community are somewhat less likely to have a will than their heterosexual counterparts. It is even more crucial that you have a will if you are unmarried. California law does recognize inheritance rights for an unmarried domestic partner. You must include your partner in your will.
2. You May Benefit From Setting Up a TrustIn some cases, a will is not the most efficient way to transfer assets to your loved ones. LGTBQ couples may benefit from setting up a trust to support the people that they care about the most. If you are considering using a trust to leave money or property to your heirs, contact an experienced California estate planning attorney for help.
3. Protect Yourself With a Power of AttorneyYour estate plan should protect you in the unfortunate event that you become incapacitated or otherwise unable to manage your own legal or financial affairs. You can protect yourself by assigning a power of attorney to a trusted loved one. Whether you are married or unmarried, it is still a best practice to formally grant your partner power of attorney. It will make it a lot easier for him or her to manage your affairs if necessary.
4. Consider Advance Health Directives and a HIPAA ReleaseFinally, members of the LGBTQ community should consider setting up advance health directives. If you have specific instructions for your own care, a health directive will ensure that those wishes are known. Additionally, a HIPAA release is also a useful estate planning document. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is a federal law that provides strong legal protections to your sensitive medical information. An unintended consequence of the law is that doctors sometimes cannot share key medical records/information with the family members of a vulnerable/incapacitated person. A HIPAA release allows you to grant your partner (or other loved ones) access to your medical information when necessary.
Get Help From a San Diego Estate Planning Attorney
At The Law Office of Kris Mukherji, our California estate planning lawyer is driven to help clients find peace, security, and stability. If you have concerns about estate planning for same-sex couples, our team is here as a resource. Contact us at (858) 442-5747 for a confidential, no obligation initial consultation. With a law office in La Jolla, we represent clients in San Diego and throughout the surrounding communities.