LGBTQ+ Couples and the Importance of Estate Planning
Sept. 15, 2023
Establishing an estate plan allows both opposite-sex and LGBTQ+ couples to prepare for life's uncertainties and leave instructions about how their estate and final affairs should be settled when they’re gone. However, estate planning for same-sex couples is quite unique, and there are several things to consider when creating one. If you're a married or unmarried LGBTQ+ couple trying to create an estate plan, consulting with an experienced Florida estate planning attorney may be beneficial.
At Eric H. Light, P.A., I have the resources and knowledge to advise and guide LGBTQ+ couples in estate planning-related matters. As your legal counsel, I can enlighten you about your estate planning options and explain some important considerations when creating your estate plan. My firm proudly serves clients across Boca Raton, Florida.
Estate Planning for Unmarried Partners
Creating an estate plan as an unmarried same-sex couple in a serious relationship is imperative to protect your partner upon your sudden incapacitation or death. The surviving partner will only be entitled to enjoy similar benefits to a surviving spouse in an opposite-sex marriage if there is a valid estate plan in place. Here are some crucial things that unmarried couples should consider when drafting their estate plan:
Making a Will or Trust
As an unmarried couple, a will and living trust remains an important part of your estate plan. You can use your will to set forth certain instructions in advance about how your property and assets should be handled, disposed of, or distributed after your death. Also, you can name a personal representative in your will and choose a legal guardian for your minor children.
However, if you die intestate – without a will – in Florida, your estate will be administered using the state's Intestate succession rules. Unfortunately, your long-term partner will be unable to receive anything from your estate since you weren't legally married.
Probate is often required to settle a deceased person's final affairs and estate in Florida. However, the probate process is usually costly and time-consuming. Also, your assets and bank accounts will be frozen, and survivors will be denied access until probate is completed. Some available options for unmarried couples to avoid probate in Florida include living trusts, joint tenancy, beneficiary designations, payable-on-death accounts, and transfer-on-death accounts.
Financial Power of Attorney
You can choose an agent to manage your finances and business affairs when you're unable or unavailable using the financial POA document. This will help ensure that your partner can easily step in on your behalf, make payments, or perform other financial transactions in the event of an emergency that makes you unavailable or unable to handle the task.
Advanced Care Directive
Unmarried couples can leave instructions about their preferred medical treatments and procedures using the advanced care directive. Also, you can choose your partner or another reliable person to help make your health-related decisions when you're unable to do so. If you become severely ill, disabled, or mentally incapacitated, your partner will have the legal duty and responsibility to make treatment decisions for you.
Lastly, establishing a detailed estate plan can help unmarried couples avoid or reduce federal or state estate taxes. In 2023, estates worth at least $12.92 million must pay federal estate taxes. Though, Florida doesn't have any estate tax or inheritance tax. However, any asset you leave for your surviving partner in your estate plan will be exempt from federal estate taxes. Thus, your spouse can inherit more money and assets.
Estate Planning for Married LGBTQ Couples
Here are some estate planning issues that married LGBTQ+ couples must address:
In most cases, only one parent (one spouse) in the LGBTQ+ marriage will be the child's biological parent. The other party must adopt the child to have parenting rights. For this reason, you need to make suitable provisions for your minor children in your estate plan. You can make the child a beneficiary and choose a legal guardian for them in your will. Also, you can keep away assets for them until a future date by creating a trust.
Once you experience any major life change, such as a divorce, a new relationship, an adoption, or acquiring new assets, ensure that you evaluate and update your estate plan accordingly. You can update the named beneficiaries in your will and trusts and designated beneficiaries in your retirement accounts and pension plans.
It’s essential to add your new partner or child and remove your estranged spouse. By reviewing and updating your estate plan regularly, the provisions in all your estate planning documents will remain consistent with your current wishes.
Reliable & Compassionate Legal Help
Creating an estate plan as an LGBTQ+ couple often involves several complexities and may need thoughtful consideration. At Eric H. Light, P.A., I'm ready and poised to advise and guide both married and unmarried same-sex couples through the complex procedures involved in estate planning. As your attorney, I can help draft vital documents, such as your will, powers of attorney, advanced directive, and living trusts and work diligently to address your different concerns.
Contact me at Eric H. Light, P.A. today to schedule a simple consultation with a dedicated estate planning lawyer. I can provide the trusted advocacy and experienced guidance you need to make intelligent decisions in your estate planning matters. My firm proudly serves clients across Boca Raton, Florida, and the surrounding communities.