Experienced Estate Planning Counsel for Same-Sex Couples
Maryland and many other states have legalized same-sex marriages. Unfortunately, however, legislative changes in some states do not solve all of the unique estate planning issues same-sex couples are faced with. Our team is experienced in providing same-sex couples with sound legal strategies.
With New Rights Come New Considerations
Let’s use Maryland as an example. Under Maryland law, married couples are now treated as married couples – whether they are same-sex couples or not. That also means that members of the LGBT community who are married are now subject to Maryland’s intestate succession laws regarding surviving spouses. Therefore, you must now very carefully consider how you want your estate apportioned between your spouse, children, and family members. If you do not have a will in place, the State of Maryland will distribute your estate in a way that is not always highly-beneficial to the surviving spouse. Also, members of the LGBT community should consider the impact of this new legislation on both their and their extended family’s estate plans. How do your estate planning documents and the estate planning documents of your parents and extended family apply to your children? You should ensure that the language of these estate planning documents includes adopted children and children born through surrogacy.
Even if your marriage and your rights are fully recognized under state law, other jurisdictions have different laws and regulations. What if you move to a state that does not recognize same-sex marriage, or experience a medical emergency in a jurisdiction where you do not automatically have a right to make medical decisions for your spouse? Having a comprehensive estate plan, reflecting both you and your spouse’s wishes, will allow you to navigate these unfortunate circumstances and carry out the intentions of you and your spouse.
Non-Married Domestic Relationships Present Estate Planning Challenges for Both Straight and LGBT Couples
The same considerations for estate planning remain for all non-married domestic couples; regardless of sweeping legal reforms on marriage. As a recent study and poll by the Pew Research Center showed, there are over 71,000, and growing, same-sex marriages in the U.S., but only around half of unmarried LGBT community members polled stated that they planned on getting married if they could. Additionally, the overall marriage rate in the U.S. has trended down significantly since 2000. Therefore, many traditional domestic partner concerns in estate planning remain for LGBT couples. Absent clear, particularized estate planning documents, non-married domestic partners are at risk of:
- Not passing any part of their estate, including any property held in the decedent’s name, to the surviving partner.
- Lacking the legal authority to access medical information and make decisions for a partner who has suffered a disabling injury.
- Experiencing difficulties in the distribution of benefits upon the death of an insured.
But with proper estate planning tools like wills, living trusts, durable power of attorney and health care power of attorney documents, you and your partner can avoid these potential problems.
Customized Estate Planning Solutions for Non-Traditional Families
Estate planning is not always the most comfortable subject to discuss, but having the right plan in place will ultimately provide you with comfort and peace of mind. Altman & Associates understands the complexity and potential pitfalls facing same-sex or otherwise non-traditional couples with respect to estate planning. To discuss planning for your marital or domestic partnership, schedule an appointment with us today. Call (301) 468-3220 or messaging us via our Contact Us page.