Rhode Island is now the tenth state to approve gay marriage. The other states that recognize marriages of LGBTQ couples are Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hamphsire, New York, Vermont, Washington. The District of Coumbia also recognizes gay marriage. States that allow either domestic partnerships or civil unions or gay partners are: California, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon and Wisconsin.
Many LGBTQ couples may now believe that gay marriage is inevitable in every state. This may cause some LGBTQ couples who have married or entered into a civil union or domestic partnerships to have an unwarranted sense of security. The truth is, LGBTQ partners are “legal strangers” in the majority of states. In addition, at least until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the case involving the constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), U.S. v. Windsor, the status of LGBTQ partners is not recognized under federal law. As legal strangers under federal law and the law of most states, gay partners do not have legal rights with regard to inheritance, lifetime financial decisions in the event of disability, health care decisions, support and child custody issues.
For this reason, all LGBTQ partners, no matter where they reside, should have a comprehensive estate plan in place to protect their rights. A typical estate plan that Riverside estate planning lawyer Dennis Sandoval prepares for his gay and lesbian clients includes one to three trusts (one joint living trust to hold the assets of the couple and one or two trusts to hold the assets the partners desire to keep separate); a pour-over will, property powers of attorney, advance health care directives and HIPAA pre-authorization form for each partner, a general assignment, and assistance with funding the assets of the partners into the trust(s). California LGBTQ couples should also consider whether it makes sense to register as domestic partners under California law. If the couple has children, consideration has to be given as to how to protect the rights of each partner as a parent.
For more information about estate planning for LGBTQ partners, visit our website. You can schedule a complimentary one hour consultation at our Riverside law office with one of our estate planning attorney who specializes in estate planning for LGBTQ couples by either calling 951-888-1460 or visiting our website.