It's a joyful time, as same-sex couples are now being allowed to marry in the majority of states. At this time, 37 States legally recognize gay marriage. This April, the Supreme Court will take up the issue and promises a ruling by July, which will affect every state in the union. With these legal unions also come financial responsibilities, such as estate planning. Don't put off this important step another minute. Whether you are legally wed or not, it's vital to get your affairs in order. Here are 4 things you need to know about estate planning for same-sex couples.
- Make a will. Wills are not just for the wealthy; any of your personal possessions from jewelry, to treasured books, to beloved pets, are considered part of your estate. If you die without a will, and you either are unmarried or live in a state that does not recognize gay marriage, the estate will automatically pass to the closest blood relative, with no provisions for your loving partner.
- Make a power of attorney. This legal document, prepared by an estate planning lawyer, will allow important decisions to be made if you become ill or otherwise incapacitated. You should also consider an advanced healthcare directive, which pertains to medical decisions specifically.
- Designate beneficiaries on financial accounts. Sometimes known as "payable on death" directives, these will allow financial assets such as 401K's, checking and savings accounts, and other investment accounts to pass directly to a designated person, completely avoiding probate and its waiting period. While you are taking care of that task, make sure that your life insurance beneficiaries are up to date.
- Life events can prompt changes. If you move, have children, buy property or experience any other major life event, make it a priority to revisit all of your plans and to update your financial and legal papers. This is a wonderful opportunity to re-read your will and make changes. People will come and go in your life, and you want your will to reflect your wishes accurately.
An estate lawyer can be a vital source of up-to-date information on the new laws pertaining to same-sex estate planning. It is imperative that you receive solid advice so that you can make good decisions and that your wishes be carried out after you are gone. For the sake of your partner and other loved ones, take the steps above to ensure that your lifetime of work and accomplishments are thoughtfully passed on. You can read more about this topic at the website of an estate planning law firm.