Gender Identity and Estate Planning

Life is full of change, so your estate planning documents will need to be changed occasionally. At Altman & Associates, we recommend reviewing your documents at least every four years. Marriage, a new child, divorce/separation, a significant change in finances, and changes in law both federal and state are all circumstances that necessitate updates. Another possible change, one rarely discussed, is the gender transition of a loved one.

An Altman client recently contacted our office to inform us that their son had transitioned to their daughter and changed her name. Since their daughter is one of their beneficiaries, our client wanted to know how to change their estate planning documents.

Transgender Identity and the Law

Transgender rights and issues have gained increasing visibility in recent years. A 2016 report estimates that 0.6 percent of the adult population (1.4 million) identifies as transgender. Laws are catching up with the progress on gender diversity and inclusivity. Many states, including Maryland, allow a person to change both their name and gender marker on their birth certificate.

In Maryland, changing a name on a birth certificate requires a court order. As of October 1, 2019, the Maryland MVA allows a person to change the gender marker on their state driver’s license or ID card without needing to provide documentation to validate the chosen gender or change the gender on their birth certificate.

Changing Documents After Transition

As stated in the introduction, any circumstances necessitate estate planning updates. A change in gender identity is another situational change that your attorney can incorporate into your new documents. The most obvious update needed is replacing the former name of the transitioning individual with their new name. Legal advocates for transgender individuals stress the importance of having the same name on all important documents. If, for example, your beneficiary has updated their state ID card and social security documents with their new name, but your will and trust still have their former name, this could create issues for your beneficiary after your death, which could require expensive and time-consuming court intervention.

If you are the one making the gender transition, it is important to also update your power of attorney and advanced medical directive forms, since these rarely include provisions related to gender-affirming care. These documents should be updated to include clauses communicating your preferred gender identity to healthcare professionals and agents.

It’s always wise to select agents, such as powers of attorney and healthcare agents, who you trust to respect the wishes of you and your beneficiaries. This is of particular importance for transgender individuals. Still large segments of the population are less than accepting of transgender issues. You may have family members who do not respect your or your beneficiary’s new gender identity. Some legal professionals recommend listing any family members who do not respect the gender identity of you or your beneficiary so the attorney can include language in your documents specifically prohibiting these individuals from being appointed as healthcare agents or fiduciaries.

Creating a Gender-Inclusive Estate Plan

Many estate planning document templates have historically included pronouns or gendered language, such as “son” and “daughter” or “husband” and “wife.” Along with changing names, changing pronouns and identifiers is also needed after a gender transition. Using gender-neutral language and titles, such as “spouse”, “partner”, or “child” will ensure that the documents follow you and your beneficiaries’ preferred gender identity.


Among the primary goals of estate planning is to ensure that your wishes will be honored and that your loved ones will be taken care of after your passing. Adapting your plan to accommodate preferred gender identities is another way to accomplish these goals. For more guidance on estate planning, call the Attorneys at Altman & Associates who are ready to assist you with your questions.  Call 301-468-3220 or visit the website of Altman & Associates at

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