LGBTQ Couples and the Importance of Estate Planning

Law Office of Geoffrey Fong June 1, 2023

Living Trust and Estate Planning Form on A DeskEstablishing an estate plan allows you to preserve your assets, make adequate provisions for loved ones, and prepare for future uncertainties. In addition, you can leave specific instructions regarding how your property, legal, health, and financial matters should be managed using your estate plan. However, estate planning for LGBTQ couples is unique, and there are some important considerations to put in mind when drafting one. 

The Law Office of Geoffrey Fong is dedicated to offering comprehensive and knowledgeable guidance to gay and lesbian couples in estate planning-related matters. Attorney Geoffrey Fong is available to discuss your unique situation and educate you about some possible challenges and vital considerations for same-sex and LGBTQ couples when creating their estate plan. The firm proudly serves clients across Rocklin, Roseville, Citrus Heights, and Folsom, California. 

Estate Planning for Unmarried Partners  

As an unmarried couple in a committed relationship, drafting an estate plan is crucial to protect your partner in the event of a sudden incapacitation or death of one of you. With a valid estate plan, the surviving party will have the liberty to enjoy the numerous benefit of a surviving spouse. Here are some important estate planning considerations for unmarried partners: 

Making a Will or Trust   

Wills and living trusts are vital estate planning tools that every unmarried couple should have. A will allows you to leave specific instructions in advance regarding how your assets should be managed, distributed, or disposed of when you're gone. 

Also, you can name a legal guardian for your minor kids, a caretaker for your pets, and choose a personal representative in your will. If you die without a will, California Intestate succession laws will decide what will happen to your estate. Unfortunately, your partner of several years might end up with nothing – since you were never lawfully married. 

Avoiding Probate   

When a person dies in California, settling the decedent's estate and final affairs usually requires their surviving family members to trudge through the probate process. Unfortunately, probate is often lengthy and expensive, and your loved ones won't have access to funds and assets until probate is finalized. 

Additionally, the probate property will be subject to federal, state, inheritance, and estate taxes. For this reason, unmarried couples are often advised to take proper steps to avoid probate. Some possible options to bypass probate include living trusts, beneficiary designations, joint tenancy, transfer on death accounts, and payable on death accounts. 

Health Care Directive  

Furthermore, healthcare directive allows you to specify your favored medical procedures and healthcare treatments in advance. Should you become critically ill, incapacitated, disabled, or otherwise unable to make your health-related decisions, you can designate your partner or name a trusted person to make them for you when needed. Therefore, the advanced directive will give your partner the legal responsibility to make medical decisions on your behalf. 

Financial Power of Attorney  

Also, the financial power of attorney allows you to name an agent who will handle your business affairs and help you make financial decisions in the event that you're unable or unavailable to do so. Using the financial POA document, you can choose your partner to act on your behalf in both business and financial matters. Also, they can help manage your finances during emergency situations. 

Estate Taxes 

In addition, creating an estate plan allows unmarried partners to reduce or avoid federal or state estate taxes. In 2023, estates worth over $12.92 million are required to pay federal estate taxes. However, any asset you leave for your surviving spouse will be exempt from federal estate tax.  

Although, there are no estate, gift, or inheritance taxes in California. Nonetheless, having an estate plan helps ensure that you leave as many assets and funds as possible for your surviving partner and loved ones. 

Estate Planning for Married LGBTQ Couples   

If you're a married LGBTQ couple, here are some other estate planning issues you need to address: 

  1. Protecting Children. In some LGBTQ marriages, one of the spouses may not be the legal parent of the child. In a situation like this, it is important that you make adequate provisions for all your minor children in your estate plan. You can name a legal guardian in your will, name the child as a beneficiary, or preserve assets until a future date using your living trust. In complex family situations, you should consider consulting with a trusted estate planning lawyer.

  2. Update Beneficiaries. As you continue to experience major life changes, such as divorce, new relationships, and adopting a new child to your family, you should also remember to review and update your estate plan. This may include updating the named beneficiaries and beneficiary designations in your will and trust. Remove your ex-partner and add your new partner or child. Review and update your estate plan and accounts regularly to ensure that the provisions are consistent with your present wishes. 

Reliable & Compassionate Legal Help   

Whether you're a married or unmarried LGBTQ couple, creating an estate plan is crucial to prepare for life's uncertainties. In the event that one of you becomes incapacitated, severely ill, unable, or otherwise unavailable to voice your opinion, the surviving partner and family members can benefit and achieve comfort from knowing their true wishes. 

Attorney Geoffrey Fong has the knowledge and diligence to guide and advise LGBTQ couples through the complexities involved in creating their estate plan. As your legal counsel, Geoffrey Fong can explore your possible options and help draft your important estate planning documents, including your will, living trust, advanced directive, and powers of attorney. Also, Attorney Geoffrey Fong will work diligently to address your needs and concerns and help you achieve your estate planning goals. 

Contact the Law Office of Geoffrey Fong today to schedule a simple consultation with an experienced estate planning lawyer. Attorney Geoffrey Fong can offer you the personalized guidance and advocacy you need to make informed decisions in your estate planning matters. The firm proudly serves clients across Rocklin, Roseville, Citrus Heights, and Folsom, California.