In spite of the fact that same-sex marriage has been legal throughout the United States since 2015, LGBTQ+ families continue to face estate planning challenges that their straight friends and relatives do not. For example, LGBTQ+ unmarried couples may be more likely to have their wills contested, to have custody battles over children they have raised but who are not their biological offspring, and to have medical and financial decisions they make on behalf of their spouse or partner interfered with by judgemental relatives.
In order to avoid such injustices, it is essential to have a fair-minded, supportive estate planning attorney with an in-depth knowledge of the law and the skill to help you create an estate plan that protects you and your family. In New Jersey, the legal team of Bozanian McGregor LLC is a wise choice. Not only are we accomplished in the field of estate planning, but we are an inclusive practice, dedicated to supporting the LGBTQ+ community and other minorities.
Estate Planning Considerations for Same-Sex Couples
All couples, regardless of sexual orientation or sexual identity, have a number of the same concerns when it comes to estate planning. Nonetheless, sometimes the emphasis placed on particular areas of estate planning may differ, especially in the case of unmarried couples. Below are the basic components of a typical estate plan:
Having a will is essential for all LGBTQ+ individuals and for same-sex couples whether they are married or in committed relationships. A will is a document in which you appoint the executor who will manage the distribution of your assets, name your beneficiaries, and name a guardian for any minor children you leave behind.
A will can also establish a trust that will provide funds to your beneficiaries quickly if you are incapacitated or killed in a sudden event. Wills are especially important for unmarried gay couples, many of whom, even those of high net worth, do not have them. Take steps now to avoid being one of them.
Though trusts are often misunderstood as estate planning tools only for the very wealthy, there are trusts that can be beneficial for most people, including LGBTQ+ individuals and couples. Wills can serve a variety of purposes, including:
- Avoiding probate, a process in which the court validates your will but which may be costly and time-consuming
- Minimizing estate tax
- Providing for children or other relatives with special needs
- Preparing for possible incapacity by making sure you will retain eligibility for Medicaid to pay for nursing home care without foregoing supplement resources
- Providing for a loved one with special needs
- Protecting a spendthrift or addicted beneficiary from their own worst instincts
- Establishing a charitable legacy
Business Succession Plans
If you own a business, having a business succession plan is a critical part of your estate plan. If you want your business to be passed along as seamlessly as possible, we can arrange for that according to your wishes and preserve your legacy.
Documents to Protect You in a Medical Crisis
Though it is disturbing to think about, sudden catastrophic injuries or medical events take place every day. It is best to have the necessary documents ready in case of an unexpected emergency. These essential documents include:
- Durable power of attorney to allow your partner to take legal or financial actions on your behalf
- Health care proxy to allow your partner to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to make them yourself
- HIPAA authorization form to state which individuals will have access to your private medical information if you are incapacitated
- Advance directive (living will) to designate which types of end-of-life care you want or do not want to have administered (e.g. intubation)
Making Sure Your Spouse or Partner Will Inherit Your Home
We will discuss this matter with both of you so that we can help you ensure that if either of you passes away, your family will still have a home. Usually, this is best achieved by having both of your names on the deed or having joint tenancy with the right of survivorship.
Other Ways to Pass Your Assets to Those You Love
As your estate planning attorneys, in addition to your will, we will assist you in making sure that you have updated your beneficiary designations on life insurance policies and retirement plans (e.g. IRAs, 401(k)s, and that you have payable on death or joint bank accounts so that your partner can have immediate access to needed funds if you die first.
Special Estate Planning Solutions for LGBTQ+ Families
As noted earlier, LGBTQ+ families often come up against challenges other families do not encounter. Bozanian McGregor is dedicated to being proactive about these challenges by creating an estate plan that takes into account these specific situations by having you consider:
- Adopting any nonbiological children which, if possible, creates the ultimate legal protection of the relationship between child and parent if there is a divorce or death in the family
- Making your spouse or partner the designated guardian of your child whether or not that person is a biological or adoptive parent*
- Dealing with strained family relationships with relatives who remain unaccepting of your family unit and possibly changing your named executor or beneficiaries
- Updating documents created before same-sex marriage was legal
*Custody will be more complicated if there is a third parent
Our estate planning lawyers have the experience and insight to assist you in protecting your family’s future by taking action now.
Contact Our Experienced LGBTQ+ Estate Planning Attorneys Today
Estate planning is a complicated process, especially for members of the LGBTQ+ community. At Bozanian McGregor, we are familiar with potential snags and will help you avoid them. We will take the time to understand the details that make your family unique and customize your estate plan to coincide with your particular needs and wishes. Contact us now so we can help you plan for the secure future your family deserves.