November 6, 2012
It’s not unusual for legislation to affect the realm of estate planning. From tax implications to guardianship of children, an estate planning attorney has to keep up with the ever-changing legal landscape. This is certainly true when it comes to estate planning for same-sex couples in Sacramento County.
Currently, although California has Registered Domestic Partnerships, same-sex marriage is not legal in California, which means that legal aspects of a same-sex relationship often fall under the category of contract law. It can be complicated, and in order to protect your property and your relationship, it is highly recommended to work with an experienced estate planning attorney.
There are several issues that need to be clearly addressed. Keep in mind, too, that this is just an introduction, and there are many other considerations to make with your lawyer.
Powers of Attorney
If one partner became ill, would the other be allowed to make medical decisions for him or her? If a medical power of attorney has not been created, then the answer is likely “no.” The decision-making role would go to a blood relative. The same is true of finances. In order for one partner to have control of the other’s finances during an illness or after death, a financial power of attorney needs to be in place.
Planning for Assets
While legally married couples have the protection of assets typically being passed directly to a spouse, same-sex couples do not enjoy these same considerations. That’s why it is important to make sure that you name your partner as your beneficiary when and where you can. Some possibilities include:
Your estate planning attorney in Sacramento County will have a comprehensive list of assets that should be considered in naming beneficiaries.
Estate and gift taxes are another area in which same-sex couples don’t have the same protections as those who are legally married. For example, legally-married spouses can gift their money and assets to their spouses without facing huge tax repercussions later. Inheritance taxes have received considerable attention as of late, but the fact is that those who don’t have the protection of legal marriage are still going to pay more than others.
Your estate planning for same-sex couples can help create ways to limit the amount of taxes that would be expected after the death of one partner. This can be achieved through well-thought-out gifts, living trusts, and other means.
The fact of the matter is that same-sex couples need to put time and effort into the estate planning process in order to ensure that their partners receive what they are entitled to receive. While estate planning really should be done by all kinds of couples, there are some safeguards in place to protect those who are legally married, and these options are just not yet available to same-sex couples in California. In the meantime, it just makes good sense to set up a meeting with a reputable attorney and add some peace of mind to your relationship.