6 Estate Planning Tips for Unmarried LGBT Couples

Whether you’re in your early twenties or approaching retirement, it’s never too early or late to create an estate plan. Even though LGBT couples can marry and enjoy the same benefits as straight married couples, marriage isn’t the right choice for every couple. For those who choose not to get married, estate planning is even more important.

Having an estate plan gives LGBT couples peace of mind in knowing that their wishes will be fulfilled should they become incapacitated or die.

These six tips can help unmarried gay couples draft a solid estate plan.

1. Draft Your Will Carefully

A will is the foundation of any estate plan. With this one powerful-but-simple document, you can:

  • Determine who will inherit your assets.
  • Name a guardian for your children.
  • Name an executor for your estate.
  • Nominate an adult to manage assets your children inherit (if necessary).
  • Appoint a guardian for your pet(s).
  • Outline how your taxes will be paid.

Without a will, you will die intestate, which means your assets will be distributed in accordance with your state’s intestate succession laws. If you die unmarried, your partner may not receive any of your assets.

While it’s possible to create a will yourself, you may want to consider hiring a lawyer who specializes in estate planning.

2. Don’t Forget to Include Health and Financial Directives

Unmarried couples do not have the same rights and benefits as married couples. If you and your long-term partner decide marriage isn’t the right choice for you, you can still ensure that your loved one is in control of your health and assets should you become incapacitated.

An advanced health care directive and durable power of attorney should be part of your estate plan if you want your wishes to be carried out.

A durable power of attorney, according to Legal Scoops, puts your partner (or whomever you name as a beneficiary) in charge of your finances should you become incapacitated or die. The beneficiary you name will be in charge of your bills, bank accounts and medical care.

An advanced health care directive will put your partner in control of your health decisions should you become incapacitated. If you’re mentally and/or physically incapable of making your own decisions, your partner will make them on your behalf.

Contingent beneficiaries can also be named in this document, and you may add preferences for organ donations, personal care and living arrangements.

3. Name Your Partner as a Beneficiary in Life Insurance and Retirement Plans

Along with creating a will and giving your partner durable power of attorney can go a long way in ensuring your final wishes are carried out.

But to make sure your partner is taken care of financially, you’ll also want to name him/her as the beneficiary of your:

  • IRA accounts
  • 401 (k) plans
  • Other retirement accounts
  • Life insurance policy

It should go without saying that you should only name long-term partners as beneficiaries and not someone you just met.

4. HIPPA Authorization

Without a HIPPA authorization form, your partner won’t be able to obtain information about your current medical condition. A patient’s medical information is protected under HIPPA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act).

A HIPPA authorization form will allow your partner to speak to your doctor about your current medical condition.

5. Establish a Joint Bank Account

If you don’t have the means to establish a durable power of attorney, you may consider opening a joint bank account with your partner.

A joint bank account will give your partner the right to use the funds to withdraw money to pay bills and make deposits.

6. Establish a Domestic Partnership Agreement

A domestic partnership agreement outlines the financial and legal details of your relationship, including your plan to share assets, share income, own property and hold bank accounts while in a relationship.

Having this agreement in place will protect your assets should your partner die or your relationship end.

A domestic partnership agreement allows you to:

  • Outline what will happen to your and your partner’s income and assets if you go your separate ways or one of you dies.
  • Minimize conflict if you decide to dissolve the relationship, as the agreement will outline both of your wishes.

These agreements are legally binding, and can give you peace of mind in knowing that your interests are protected if the unexpected happens.

Marriage isn’t the right choice for every couple, but without taking steps to protect your assets and wishes, your partner may be left in the dark should you become incapacitated or die. Use these tips and work with an experienced attorney to ensure you have a solid estate plan.