There have been some significant rulings coming out of the US Supreme Court this year. There are serious discussions in the legal community on whether the issue of gay marriage will be the next right to be overturned. Social media platforms are full of calls for LGBTQIA+ couples to ‘get their documents in order’. But what does that mean? What exactly are the ‘documents’ that LGBTQIA+ couples should have? And how can LGBTQIA+ individuals and couples protect their chosen loved ones?
Here are the top five steps to embark on today:
- Create a Will and Trust
There is a distinct possibility that the assets in your estate could end up in the hands of an estranged family member or distant relative rather than your partner, children, or treasured friends. If you die without a Will or Trust, a Probate court will follow intestacy laws which bequeath everything you own to those closest in your genetic bloodline, which could be parents, siblings, nieces and nephews. This could direct your lifetime earnings to a family member who has disowned you or failed to support your lifestyle.
A Will and Trust also offer the opportunity for you to name the individual who will manage your assets if you experience any incapacity during lifetime as well as the authority to distribute your estate if you are gone.
- Already Have an Estate Plan? Update Your Will and Trust Now
As with all estate plans, the intentions set forth in writing by LGBTQIA+ folks can become stale or outdated over time or due to changing circumstances. If you have had a change in relationship status, adopted or given birth to children, sustained a significant shift in the nature or value of your assets, or simply wish to change your trustees and beneficiaries, now is the time to do a thorough review of your documents and engage a competent attorney to draft any desired revisions.
- Execute a Power of Attorney
A Power of Attorney allows your chosen agent to access your financial accounts such as investment accounts, savings and checking accounts, retirement accounts, etc., during your lifetime. If you are ill or traveling out of the country, this allows your partner or loved one to pay bills on your behalf.
- Sign Health Care Documents: Advance Health Directive and HIPAA Privacy Waiver
Did you know that your life-partner or children may not be able to visit you, talk with your doctor or make medical decisions for you if you are injured or ill? By selecting your health care agent(s) in advance, in writing, you empower them to advocate for your medical needs and access information which may be vital for your well-being.
- Nominate a Guardian for Minor Children
Even more important than our wealth, of course, is our children. Setting forth your intentions for the care and custody of your children should not be delayed. Unless your partner is also the legal parent or guardian, the legal right to continue raising your children could pass to a family member with whom you do not have a relationship or who does not share your values and parenting style.
There is a lot that has changed on the legal landscape of equal rights for LGBTQIA+ groups, and more changes may be on the way. This uncertainty is a call to action for parents and partners who want to protect their loved ones and leave a legacy which truly reflects who they are.