estate planning for lgbtq community

Unique Estate Planning Concerns for Members of the LGBTQ Community

Picture of By: Shannon McNulty, Attorney, The Village Law Firm

By: Shannon McNulty, Attorney, The Village Law Firm

Shannon's work is sophisticated and reflects her deep knowledge of the laws governing estates, taxation and child guardianship issues. Shannon approaches each client with sensitivity and compassion, understanding that many of the decisions that they will have to make can be difficult.

Learn More About Shannon

Estate planning looks different for just about every family. This is especially true for members of the LGBTQ community.  If you are a member of the LGBTQ community, below are a few issues that can impact your family.

Marriage Status

Since June 2015, same-sex couples have been legally allowed to get married in the United States. This long-overdue right provided an equal opportunity to these couples to legally secure their relationship and take advantage of government benefits that are afforded only to married couples.

However, the percentage of same-sex couples who live together but are not married is significantly higher than that of opposite-sex couples who live together. According to Census data from 2019, roughly 11.7% of opposite-sex couples who live together are not married while roughly 42% of same-sex couples who live together are unmarried.

A myriad of factors are at play here, including some older same-sex couples who were together long before the marriage ruling deciding not to go through with the marriage because the status of their relationship has worked for them, societal factors creating unnecessary and abnormal challenges for same-sex couples, and more.

For couples who are not married, estate planning is even more important because there are no legal protections for your partner.  Your partner could end up not receiving any of your assets, and if you own the home that you live in, your partner could wind up with no place to live.  

Even if you are married, it is clear from the recent Supreme Court decision reversing Roe v. Wade that the right to same-sex marriage may not be as permanent as we would hope.  So it’s important even for married couples to reinforce their rights by legally documenting their wishes.

Raising Your Children

In many same-sex couples, one parent will not be the biological parent of your children, requiring additional steps to legally secure and protect your parental rights.

A second-parent adoption will legally establish parental rights for a non-biological parent. An experienced adoption attorney can help you go through this process to make sure it’s done right so you can have peace of mind in your family.. Failing to do so could expose you to risk down the line should your spouse or partner die, become incapacitated, or decide to take your child and leave.

Changing Your Name

People who are transgender often adopt a new name they feel more accurately represents their identity and the way they want to represent themselves.  Some may stop short of pursuing a legal name change and simply go by a name that is different than their legal name. 

Typically, a person’s estate planning documents reference their legal name, as well as any other names they may go by or have gone by in the past.  This ensures that assets owned under any of your names are included in the estate that gets passed to your loved ones.

If you are raising a child who is transgender, your legal documents should use gender-neutral language, such as “my child” instead of “my son” or “my daughter.”  This will avoid any confusion or problems with their inheritance.  

Choose An Inclusive Attorney

As a member of the LGBTQ community, you have the same estate planning rights as everybody else. However, some people still fall short of their duty to honor the rights you’ve been given and might not be ideal legal partners.

At The Village Law Firm, we work with members of the LGBTQ community and support their rights throughout the estate planning process. If you need help making sure your documents are updated and reflect the reality of your situation then contact our team. We help New Yorkers from all walks of life find peace of mind.For additional advice on this subject or to learn more about other important estate planning subjects, you can find informational videos on our YouTube page.

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