Before the Supreme Court’s marriage equality decision, estate planning for LGBTQ couples involved issues quite different from those you might expect to find in AARP’s magazine. On the other hand, well before the June 2015 decision, AARP already did carry an article to help LGBTQ couples with some special and serious challenges.
In many ways, estate planning has become easier for LGBTQ couples. But financial advisors, attorneys and couples themselves now more clearly the work left to do in creating estate planning equality.
Marriage equality means better problems to solve
Thanks to the many legal protections available for generations of heterosexual couples, they have often had to understand an awful lot of legal protections. For some LGBTQ couples, it took a moment to realize the complicated machinery of legal marriage takes time and education to understand, put in place and manage over the long-term.
The Human Rights Campaign has a handy booklet introducing the fundamental concepts of an estate plan. After an LGBTQ couple has mastered it, they might want to pass it on to their straight friends. Everybody has trouble with its sometimes-obscure concepts.
A sturdy foundation of basic documents
The first step in estate planning is to write it all down in well-made legal documents. These act as a kind of legal manual or set of operating instructions for legal American lives and marriages.
- A will with instructions for distributing your assets and assigning guardians to your children
- A current beneficiary list for retirement plans, life insurance and investments
- Current property titles
- Financial power of attorney and advance healthcare directives
- Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) authorization
Once you have those documents carefully considered, drafted, revised and finalized, you can think of them as living documents.
They will need revisiting often enough to keep them relevant as families grow, income and assets change, needs age and evolve and your relationship matures.