Every adult should have at least a basic estate plan in place. For some adults, however, estate planning takes on a heightened importance. This has traditionally been the case for members of the LGBT community; however, in light of the fact that same-sex marriage is now legal across the United States, is LGBT planning still necessary? The Lincolnshire estate planning attorneys at Hedeker Law Ltd. explain why it remains important for members of the LGBT community to have a comprehensive estate plan in place.
We’ve Come a Long Way…
As members of the LBGT community and their supports know, it was not very long ago that most members of the LGBT community lived in the shadows. Laws across the country banned same-sex couples from marrying and almost all state and federal benefits refused to recognize a same-sex marriage even if it was legally performed in one of the few states that allowed them. In recent years, however, the LGBT community scored an important victory in the fight for equality when the Supreme Court finally took on the issue of same-sex marriage, declaring that states must allow same-sex couple to marry and must recognize same-sex marriages from other states. Along with that monumental legal shift, societal changes over the last several decades have also shifted in a positive direction. Despite all of these positive changes, there is still a long way to go.
We Still Have a Long Way to Go
While the right to marry victory was certainly an important one for members of the LGBT community, there is still a long way to go before absolute equality is reached. When it comes to estate planning, some of the remaining issues continue to point to the need for LGBT members to have a comprehensive estate plan in place. For example, although same-sex marriage is now legal in every state, some benefit programs still do not recognize a same-sex spouse’s rights, highlighting the need to have a well thought out estate plan in place that confers those rights on your spouse. Furthermore, although society as a whole is now much more accepting of LGBT relationships, individual family members may not be. If that is the case in your family, your spouse could be shut out of the decision-making process entirely in the event of your incapacity or death.
What Should be in Your Plan?
The good news is that a comprehensive estate plan can go a long way toward leveling the proverbial playing field. Through your estate plan, you can provide financially for your spouse or partner as well as ensure that he or she has the legal authority to make decisions for you regarding your medical treatment if you are incapacitated and/or to plan your funeral and burial at the end of your life. As a member of the LGBT community, your comprehensive estate plan should include tools and strategies such as:
- Last Will and Testament – in your Will you can gift assets to anyone you choose. Therefore, use your Will to leave some, or all, of your estate to your spouse/partner.
- Revocable Living Trust — frequently used as part of a broader incapacity plan, a revocable living trust lets you shift control of assets held in the trust to your designated successor Trustee in the event of your incapacity.
- Retirement plan – by incorporating your retirement plans into your estate plan you can rest assured that both you and your spouse/partner will have sufficient assets to live comfortably during your “Golden Year” and that your spouse/partner can access those assets of something happens to you.
- Advanced directives – executing an advance directive provides your designated Agent with the legal authority to make healthcare decisions for you in the event you are unable to make them at some point in the future.
Contact Lincolnshire Estate Planning Attorneys
For more information, please download our FREE estate planning worksheet. If you have additional questions or concerns regarding LGBT estate planning, or if you wish to get started on your comprehensive plan today, contact the experienced estate planning attorneys at Hedeker Law, Ltd. by calling (847) 913-5415 to schedule an appointment.
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