Obergefell v. Hodges, the landmark case that legalized same-sex marriage across the nation, was a long overdue victory for the LGBT community and their supporters. While that victory did make estate planning easier for many LGBT individuals, it did not resolve all of the complex legal issues that members of the LGBT community face. The reality is that full legal equality remains lacking, and discrimination still exists, resulting in a heightened need for comprehensive estate planning by members of the LGBT community.
Anderson, Dorn & Rader, Ltd. is committed to providing the help that you need with LGBT estate planning so you and your loved ones are always protected. Our legal team can assist you in identifying the unique issues that you face and can advise you on making effective use of legal tools to protect yourself and your family.
Anderson, Dorn & Rader, Ltd
Ongoing Concerns for the LGBT Community
The nation’s highest court finally took on the issue of same-sex marriage in Obergefell v. Hodges finally declaring that states must allow same-sex couples to marry and must recognize same-sex marriages from other states. While this is undisputedly good news going forward, it also created a legal quagmire for some LGBT couples. Same-sex couples who previously married in a state that recognized same-sex marriage and then decided to end their relationship in a state that did not allow same-sex marriages may not have been allowed to go through a legal divorce. Worse still, they may not even realize they are still legally married now that all states must recognize same-sex marriages. Conversely, couples who entered into a civil union or other quasi-marriage prior to the decision in Obergefell may assume their civil union was converted to a legal marriage; however, it may not have been. As you can well imagine, a mistake in your marital status can wreak havoc with your estate in the event of your incapacity or death. Fortunately, a well thought out estate plan can erase any doubt as to your wishes and intentions.
The right to marry now gives your spouse rights to many state and federal benefits to which you are entitled, such as veterans benefits and Social Security retirement benefits; however, it does not completely open the door to all such benefits. Moreover, the right to marry cannot force family members or even businesses to accept and acknowledge your relationship. If your family opposes your relationship, or worse, refuses to acknowledge it, they could try very hard to shut your spouse out of the decision-making process entirely in the event of your incapacity or death. The result may be a costly and emotionally exhausting legal battle that could have been avoided with careful estate planning.
How Can Estate Planning Help?
Every adult should have a comprehensive estate plan in place. As a member of the LGBT community, estate planning becomes even more important to ensure that your wishes are clear and to avoid contentious and costly legal battles. Some common estate planning tools that can help include:
- Last Will and Testament – your Will lets you gift assets to anyone you choose, including your spouse/partner. You also have the ability to appoint someone to administer your estate in the event of your death and nominate a Guardian for your minor child if one is ever needed.
- Joint ownership –using the right type of joint ownership (with rights of survivorship) to title real property ensures that your legal ownership interest in the property will automatically transfer to your spouse/partner upon your death, avoiding the need for the property to pass through probate.
- Advanced directives – an advance directive gives your designated Agent the legal authority to make healthcare decisions for you in the event you are unable to make them yourself. When family members are less than supportive of your relationship, an advance directive effectively stops a legal battle over the right to make decisions for you in its tracks.
- Revocable living trust — if you also want to ensure that your spouse/partner has the legal right to control your assets in the event of your incapacity, a revocable living trust lets you shift control of assets held in the trust to your spouse/partner by naming him/her as your successor Trustee.
- Funeral planning — incorporating a funeral planning component into your estate plan ensures that your wishes will be honored after you are gone and, of equal importance, that the person you designate will be in charge of any decisions that need to be made regarding your funeral and burial.
Contact a Reno LGBT Estate Planning Attorney Today
The day will come when complete equality exists for everyone; however, until that day arrives, it is imperative that you remain vigilant with regard to your estate plan if you are a member of the LGBT community to ensure that your wishes are respected and honored. The LGBT estate planning attorneys at Anderson, Dorn & Rader, Ltd. are dedicated to helping you create a plan that protects you and your wishes. Contact us by calling 775-823-9455 or contact us online today.