Samme-sex marriages are recognized under all 50 states and under federal law in the same manner as heterosexual marriages. However, same-sex couples need to be particularly aware of estate planning issues. Effective estate planning for gay and lesbian couples requires a “non-standard approach”.
Same-sex couples who have not married will be treated in the eyes of the law as complete and utter strangers. As a result, couples without the proper estate planning documents in place will suffer unnecessary heartache, endless frustration and possible financial strain during an already difficult time.
Avoiding Probate Court
One particular concern for same-sex couples is avoiding probate court on death. Everything in a will becomes public during probate. Prior to admitting a will to probate, all potential heirs must be notified and are given the opportunity to contest the will. For that reason, many same-sex couples opt for a Revocable Living Trust to dispose of their assets at death. Revocable Living Trusts can be 100 percent private and they are much more difficult for surviving heirs to contest.
Same-sex couples must concern themselves with issues related to guardianship of minors and funeral arrangements. If there are children, those minors may have only one of the partners as a legal parent. Unless proper documentation has been prepared, a probate court Judge will have decision-making authority over some of these sensitive issues. Same-sex couples to address these issues.