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Estate Planning: What Same-Sex Couples Need to Know

As a USA Today article explains, estate planning can be complicated for anyone but it can be especially intricate for same-sex couples. Some of the same issues that heterosexual couples face apply but there may be additional hurdles.

Married? One of the first things a same-sex couple needs to do is determine if they are married. If the individuals never married, that determination is simple. However, if they married in or move to a state where same-sex marriages were contested, things are not clear. USA Today consulted Joan M. Burda, attorney and author of Estate Planning for Same-Sex Couples. According to Burda, some couples moved to states that don’t recognize same-sex unions and separated without ending their unions legally because they thought their marriages weren’t legal. Others were not aware that “some states have automatically converted registered domestic partnerships or civil unions into legal marriages.” This could lead to surprises years later.

Plan for challenges. Same-sex couples that were not accepted by their families may find relatives challenging one partner’s right to inherit. A will is often touted as the simplest way to pass on assets but in this circumstance, adding a trust and power of attorney can make it easier to carry out your wishes.

This same principal applies when it comes to who gets to make medical decisions. Again, if family was not approving (and even if they were), it can help to use documentation to designate who gets to make medical decisions for you. A living will or a health care proxy/surrogate are ways to outline your wishes in writing.

Overall, you have to look out for yourself, your partner, your children by providing legally-binding documentation to ensure that your wishes are carried out. Burda cautions against using DIY estate planning websites because these do not cover the complexities that e same-sex couples often face. A Fee-Only financial planner can help with some of your estate planning.