In recent years, members of the gay and lesbian community and their supporters have finally achieved some tangible results in their battle for equality. Does that mean that the heightened need for estate planning is no longer applicable to members of the LGBTQ community? Not necessarily. While the recent victories are cause for rejoicing, estate planning remains important for members of the LGBTQ community according to the California LGBTQ estate planning attorneys at Dennis M. Sandoval, A Professional Law Corporation.
The Road to Victory
Members of the LGBTQ community have been battling discrimination and prejudice a well as fighting for equality for a very long time in the United States. Not long ago, laws across the country banned same-sex couples from marrying and almost all state and federal benefits were unavailable to same-sex couples even if the couple was married in one of the few states that at that time allowed same-sex couples to marry. The LGBTQ community scored a major victory in the fight for equality, however, 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 the ability to formally recognize a lifelong commitment, the right to marry also comes with a number of additional legal and practical benefits, many of which are related to estate planning. That does not mean, however, that LGBTQ members no longer need to be vigilant where estate planning is concerned.
Ongoing Estate Planning Concerns for the LGBTQ Community
The right to legally marry does make some estate planning concerns evaporate; however, not all. For example, marriage means that your spouse will inherit from your estate by law. It also gives your spouse rights to many state and federal benefits to which you are entitled, such as veterans benefits and Social Security retirement benefits. It does not, however, open the door to all such benefits nor does it force family members or even businesses to acknowledge your relationship. One of the biggest concerns for LBGT members continues to be the attitude of family members. If your family has not yet accepted your same-sex marriage or relationship, your spouse/partner could be shut out of the decision-making process entirely in the event of your incapacity or death if you failed to plan ahead and a costly and painful legal battle may follow.
If you have minor children, the ability to legally marry doesn’t always resolve issues related to those children. Your spouse may still need to adopt your children for him or her to have automatically recognized legal rights to them. Without legal action in one form or another, the other same sex parent might not have the legal right to care for your child in the event of your death or incapacity.
In addition, many older LGBTQ adults are concerned about how they will be treated during their “Golden Years.” A national AARP survey, “Maintaining Dignity: Understanding and Responding to the Challenges Facing Older LGBTQ Americans,” asked members of the LGBTQ community a number of questions related to aging and how being a member of the LGBTQ community affects their outlook on growing older. Data was collected from October 27 to November 12, 2017, through an online survey of 1,762 lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Americans age 45 and older. Among some of the more informative findings were the following:
- 67 percent of respondents said they would be very or somewhat concerned about neglect
- 62 percent are worried about abuse
- 61 percent have a fear of physical harassment
- 61 percent wondered whether they would be refused access to services or face limited access
- 52 percent thought they might not be able to be out or would be forced to hide or deny their identity.
Unfortunately, the survey results highlight the ongoing concerns of members of the LGBTQ community and the continued importance of thorough estate planning.
Estate Planning Can Help
Fortunately, a well thought out and comprehensive estate plan can resolve many of the remaining issues faced by members of the LGBTQ community. If you are a member of that community, now is not the time to let down your guard. On the contrary, now is the time to remain vigilant until the day comes when all barriers to equality are broken down.
Contact California Gay and Lesbian Estate Planning Attorneys
If you have additional questions or concerns about LGBTQ estate planning in California, contact the experienced estate planning attorneys at Dennis M. Sandoval, A Professional Law Corporation by calling (951) 888-1460 to schedule an appointment.