Maryland and many other states have legalized same-sex marriages. Unfortunately, however, legislative changes in some states do not solve the unique Same-Sex Couples Estate Planning issues that partners face. Our team is experienced in providing same-sex couples with sound legal strategies.
Let us 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 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, so it 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? The language of these estate planning documents includes adopted children and children born through surrogacy.
Even if your marriage and your rights are 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 may 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 intend you and your spouse.
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. And 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:
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.
Estate planning is not always the most comfortable subject to discuss, but having the right plan in place will ultimately comfort you and peace of mind. Altman & Associates understands the complexity and potential pitfalls facing same-sex or otherwise non-traditional couples regarding estate planning. To discuss planning for your marital or domestic partnership, schedule an appointment with us today. Call (301) 468-3220 or message us via our Contact Us page.