How Can Estate Plans Help Same-Sex Couples?

Estate plans can greatly help same-sex couples manage their financial and medical affairs, as well as protect each other even after death. While same-sex married couples have many of the same estate planning advantages as opposite-sex married couples, people who are unmarried should take special care to plan ahead.

Managing Financial and Medical Affairs with an Estate Plan

An unmarried person may have trouble handling his or her partner’s affairs if the partner becomes very ill or mentally incapacitated. The same is true for married couples who do not share the same last name. Medical and financial institutions are more likely to ask for proof of marriage or simply block you from making decisions on your partner’s behalf. As a result, you might be kept out of the hospital room at a key time or be unable to pay the bills.

Estate planning can help with these problems. Both unmarried and married couples may sign powers of attorney in each other’s favor that have been prepared by an estate planning lawyer. A power of attorney gives a chosen person authority to make decisions for the creator. It can go into effect when the creator becomes incapacitated from making decisions or at any other time. Powers of attorney may be medical or financial, and many people choose to sign special advance directives that address a variety of medical and end-of-life questions.

Protecting Each Other During Life and After Death with an Estate Plan

Another significant concern for same-sex couples is protecting each other financially in the event of life changes or even the death of one partner. Without an estate plan in place, a married spouse will most likely inherit part of the estate from the other spouse. But unmarried partners who have not made wills have no entitlement to part of each other’s estates. Instead, the money or property would be divided up among close family members such as children and parents.

To gain more peace of mind that your wishes for your partner or spouse will be carried out, you need to make a will. This legal document explains how and to whom an executor should distribute your money and property after you have passed away. You can consult an estate planning lawyer to help you prepare your will and get it properly executed.

In addition, you can protect your partner or spouse through other estate planning structures. You might consider leaving resources to them through a trust, life insurance, retirement accounts, or lifetime gifts. To put these structures in place, you need to take a few steps such as filling out beneficiary designations and checking on tax consequences. Speak to an estate planning lawyer to learn more.

Want to start planning your estate? Local attorney Andrew Szocka, Esq. provides thorough and speedy estate planning help in the Chicagoland area. To schedule a free initial consultation, visit the Law Office of Andrew Szocka, P.C. online or call the office at (815) 455-8430.

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