Can estate planning benefit even unmarried couples?

The U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision on same-sex marriage has increased the estate-planning options available to same-sex couples. Yet what about those in a committed relationship who don’t yet want to tie the knot?

A recent article reminds us that unmarried gay couples, for example, may need to update their wills and legal documents. The risk is that any property that is not jointly titled could be lost to estate taxes and/or the decedent’s other family members, even if estranged. Similarly, retirement benefits need to name a specific beneficiary. Yet marriage equality is not the same as workplace equality, and some same-sex couples may be afraid of naming their partner. Other LGBT couples may worry about having access to their significant other in the event of one member’s incapacity. 

Fortunately, there are alternatives to the above problems. Retirement benefits can name a trust as the beneficiary, for example. However, such accounts may have mandatory minimum distribution rules. Accordingly, the trust may need to name individuals as its beneficiaries in order for the retirement account to properly distribute through the trust.

A healthcare directive, including a durable power of attorney and a living will, can ensure that one’s partner will have access and input in the event of an unforeseen medical issue. Without those documents, unmarried partners may not be permitted to make significant medical decisions for their loved one.

Our law firm focuses on estate planning and has helped many clients accomplish these and other similar goals. Our estate planning services include wills, powers of attorney, HIPAA authorizations, health care directives, revocable living trusts and other instruments. Check out our webpage to learn more about these and other various estate planning options.

Source: Bloomberg, “Your Financial Adviser Wants to Know if You’re Gay,” Ben Steverman, Aug. 4, 2015

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