June is LGBTQ Pride Month, and a lot has changed in the last 20 years. The first in a series on LGBTQ financial planning, this article focuses on documents that are essential to planning your estate. Since the 2015 ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, where the U.S. Supreme Court overruled the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), married same-sex couples are entitled to the same rights and are required to uphold the same responsibilities as heterosexual couples.
Marriage Equality Means Access to Rights and New Responsibilities
These changes affect virtually every area of their lives—for better or worse. And, like any other married couple, planning for the future is critical.
Prior to the 2015 Supreme Court ruling, same-sex couples often needed to create various legal documents and agreements to protect their rights and ensure their partner took ownership of their property in the event of death or disability. If such documentation was created, it may be time to review the agreements to ensure that they are still appropriate.
Same-Sex Couples Financial Planning
Whether you’re currently married to your partner or making plans to tie the knot, creating an estate plan can help secure your legacy and build a shared vision for the future. A basic estate plan starts with the following documents:
- Wills/Trusts: A will serves as instructions as to how one’s assets will be distributed at death. A trust is a document that states the rules that you want followed for property held in trust for beneficiaries.
- Durable Power of Attorney: In the event you are unable to make decisions, this agreement transfers that power to a third party.
- Beneficiary Designations: Insurance policies, retirement accounts, and other financial accounts have beneficiary designations that indicate who should receive the proceeds when you die. These instructions take precedence over your will.
- Healthcare Power of Attorney: Similar to a durable power of attorney, this tool allows your spouse or someone else you designate to step in and make healthcare-related decisions for you.
- Guardianship Designations (if appropriate): This document indicates who will receive custody of your children in the event of your death. This is often the most challenging part of the estate-planning process and often an obstacle to completing the planning process in a timely manner.
To the extent you and your spouse have already executed these documents, it is always worth a review to ensure that any life changes, such as giving birth to or adopting a child, have been reflected. An unreviewed estate plan exposes the family to unnecessary risks and may not reflect the best decisions for your current situation.
We recommend a review of your plan at least every three years. If your documents were executed prior to the Obergefell ruling, a review of those documents is imperative to ensure that you and your spouse have not overlooked any new planning opportunities. Additionally, it is possible that sophisticated planning structures may need to be unwound to ensure they do not inhibit any of your rights under post-Obergefell laws.
No Time Like the Present
Planning starts with a conversation – engage your spouse regarding family finances. Please give us a call so we may help you begin building the road to financial clarity and confidence.
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RegentAtlantic does not provide legal or tax advice. Please consult with a legal and or tax professional of your choosing prior to implementing any of the strategies discussed in this article.