A marriage allows concrete legal and tax benefits to both a husband and a wife, however these laws generally do not recognize the same rights and privileges for same-sex couples. Since gay or lesbian couples lack some of the same rights as their heterosexual counterparts, these benefits must be created through the use of estate planning and contracts. In order to ensure that certain property will actually be received by your spouse or partner, you must use a will or a living trust. Without your own plan in place, the government will draft an estate plan for you.
Some same sex couples have been afforded the right to be legally married in California. Additionally, California allows same sex couples to register as domestic Partners with the Secretary of State. In spite of this progress, there are still several legal and/or tax issues that must be addressed.
An estate plan will also address issues that may arise should you become incapacitated. Should you become legally incapacitated someone will need to step in to make important financial and health care decisions on your behalf. A document called a Durable Power of Attorney for Estate Management allows you to appoint your partner, spouse or a friend to act as your agent with regard to your finances. Without this document, someone may have to petition the court to take care of financial affairs.
Another document that works similarly to the Power of Attorney for Estate Management is an Advanced Health Care Directive. This allows you to name someone to make health care decisions on your behalf should you become incapacitated. While an Advanced Health Care Directive is not needed for visitation rights and California’s improved domestic partnership and marriage laws allow a partner or same sex spouse visitation rights, some hospitals may be unfamiliar with this area of California law. An Advanced Health Care Directive allows you to clarify your rights and provides extra insurance that the hospital will have to follow your wishes. Additionally, if you travel outside of California, or move to another state, you are not guaranteed the same rights that are afforded to California residents. Thus it is imperative that you execute an Advanced Health Care Directive.
Let our expert attorneys create an estate plan that will meet your goals and protect you during life, enable your partner to have meaningful participation in case of an emergency and provide for your partner and loved ones upon your death in the fastest and most cost effective method available.