Long before the Obergefell v. Hodges decision made marriage equality a universal law in the United States, LGBTQ people have taken measures to ensure that their partners and children are cared for after they pass away. The right to marry has solidified the ability of a deceased person’s family to obtain assets or care for dependents. Nevertheless, it doesn’t hurt to follow some of these estate planning recommendations to guarantee that your loved ones have the resources they need after you’re gone.
Complications in the Post-Obergefell World
NerdWallet contributor Tina Orem highlighted some distinctive complexities that developed due to the Supreme Court’s decision. In her June 2017 article, she revealed that those who resided in a state that previously didn’t sanction their unions and who later split up without taking proper legal steps may still be considered married under the new rules. Some jurisdictions are also converting registered domestic partnerships into legal marriages. If you’re uncertain of your status, check with the state in which you originally wed or registered.
The Right Kind of Asset Protection
NerdWallet’s Tina Orem also cited vital insight from Joan M. Burda, an Ohio attorney specializing in estate planning. Burda suggests that a trust may be a better option than a will for those estranged from their families, disclosing that it’s not uncommon for LGBTQ people’s wills to be contested by surviving relatives. Since trusts do not go through the probate process, they’re usually a safer vehicle in which to house assets and transfer them to your loved ones upon death. Additionally, Think Advisor recommends reviewing any life insurance, retirement plans or other documentation to confirm that you’ve designated the right individuals as your beneficiaries.
Don’t Forget About Medical and End-of-Life Issues
Protecting your estate is one thing, but it’s important not to overlook how you’ve specified your wishes for long-term medical care. You’ll probably need to draft a living will to dictate how you want to be cared for if you can’t make your own decisions. Also known as advanced health care directives, these handle essentials such as whether you want to be maintained on life support and what actions should be taken to resuscitate you.
You’ll also want to think about your funeral arrangements and make sure you document your preferences. Some states, such as Florida and Georgia, allow you to do so within your advanced directives for healthcare. At the same time, others mandate the use of separate documents or the purchase of a prepaid funeral plan. The Funeral Consumers Alliance published an extensive list of the requirements in each locale for specifying final arrangements and designating an agent to ensure these are executed.
Transgender People Face Unique Issues
Transgender individuals often contend with additional complications when purchasing a life insurance policy. As internet insurance broker Quotacy explains, rates can vary according to how each carrier determines gender. Some insist on using the gender on your birth certificate, regardless of your medical or legal transition activities. Thankfully, other companies use only an applicant’s self-identification. Others have detailed guidelines for quoting trans individuals as their true genders, which can include:
- Hormone therapy for a specified length of time
- Top or bottom surgery
- Proof of gender therapy or counseling
Due to spotty practices and guidelines, transgender men are sometimes quoted lower female rates while trans women may end up with significantly more expensive male-based premiums.
Prior to the Supreme Court decision, horror stories abounded in which the families of gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender individuals fought to exclude their partners from receiving from their estates or assuming guardianship of their children. Even after this landmark legal move, it’s wise to ensure you don’t overlook planning your own estate. Using the right financial and legal vehicles for your situation and carefully documenting your preferences are just a couple of steps in ensuring your wishes are honored.