It might seem like same-sex marriage has been legal for a long time, but it actually was not legal in all 50 states until 2015. And, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, over 40 percent of LGBTQ+ households in the U.S. are still unmarried as a result. Unfortunately, due to the nature of these relationships LGBTQ+ families have unique estate planning issues.
Last will and testament
For unmarried couples, generally, both spouses maintain separate finances. And, even where there is some co-mingling of property and bank accounts, only that property and those bank accounts where both spouses are listed as owners will allow a surviving spouse to access them after the other spouse passes. For all other assets, an unmarried spouse will, generally, have no claim and will have no inheritance rights.
This means that, even if a couple has been together for decades, they could lose just about everything to their deceased spouse’s children or other family, even if that family has been estranged for years. The solution to this is a will, which is also known as a last will and testament. Essentially, this document dictates how someone’s assets will be distributed after death, and even allows for one to name a guardian for their minor children. It is extremely important for unmarried spouses and to avoid familial disputes after one passes.
Protecting their children
For all parents, protection their children are their primary concern. And, one may have a will that appoints their spouse as a guardian for their minor children when they pass. However, if there is another biological parent that still has parental rights, that may not matter.
This is why, for LGBTQ+ couples with children, an estate plan is essential, not just for their property protection, but also to protect their children. Unless there is a court document (a birth certificate may not be enough) that grants parental rights to both partners, someone else may have a claim to take away the child, should one of the spouses die.
Especially for unmarried LGBTQ+ couples with children, they will likely be thinking, “help!” Indeed, while many are afraid of the costs associated with estate planning, it is likely less costly than one thinks. And, the protection and peace of mind that a legally enforceable estate plan provides is priceless. The first step is to contact a Beaumont, Texas, estate planning attorney.