We recognize that the LGBT community has different obstacles to overcome with regards to estate planning, due to the state of the laws regarding same-sex marriage. We remain knowledgeable and sensitive to the many challenges the LGBT community will continue to face with regard to estate planning, tax planning, probate, gift taxes, and the different treatment of their relationships in different states.
While all of us can surely benefit from an estate plan, the need for a comprehensive plan may be more pressing for same-sex couples. That is especially true for those couples whose states do not legally recognize their union. Marriage makes estate planning easier for heterosexual couples because they enjoy automatic eligibility for many benefits.
Estate planning issues faced by same-sex couples
Both state and federal laws determine the manner in which a couplecan own property together, to whom assets can pass when one person dies, the calculation and payment of certain taxes and the applicability of tax exemptions, and who has the legal authority to make health care or financial decisions whensomeone becomes incapacitated.
Unfortunately, some of these laws apply solely to married couples. Since most states still do not allow or recognize same-sex marriage, same-sex couples aredeprived of some of these benefits. That is why it is so important for same-sex couples to have an estate plan. With an estate plan, a same sex couple can be sure their intent in these legal areas will be recognized and, more importantly, will be legally binding.
Why is an estate plan necessary for same-sex couples?
It has not always been the case in Nevada, that same sex unions were recognized. Domestic partnerships first became recognized in Nevada on October 1, 2009. Although this legislation was eventually passed, it was enacted over the governor’s veto. This recurring opposition to same-sex unions only demonstrates the fact that gay couples cannot afford to depend on society’s norms in validating their relationships.
It is certainly less likely that, for instance, hospital employees will honor your partner’s wishes if you are the only one available to convey them. However, executing legally binding documents that clearly spell out your and your partner’s wishes can solve that problem. Not to mention the fact that, in order to take certain actions on behalf of someone else, who may be incapacitated, formal or legal authority is generally required.
What should we do?
It is critical to consult an experienced estate planning attorney who specializes in estate planning legal issues. Each state has its own laws relating to same-sex unions, and those laws can be complicated and ever-changing. An experienced Reno, Nevada LGBT estate planning attorney can make sure you have all of your bases covered in that area. Also, even if you live in a state like Nevada, where domestic partnerships are recognized by law, establishing an estate plan will ensure your wishes are documented, regardless of where you ultimately live or who is required to determine the legality of your partnership.