Legal recognition of same-sex marriage varies from state to state, and parental rights vary depending on the legal status of the relationship. Same-sex couples are advised to take the steps needed to preserve their assets, including last will and testament, durable power of attorney and advanced directives, with particular attention when there are children as part of the family unit.
Things to consider:
- Guardianship clause. If only one partner is the legally recognized parent, and that parent dies or become incapacitated, the other parent could very well lose all rights to contact with the children. Include language in both the will and durable power of attorney with a guardianship clause. The guardianship clause will name the surviving partner as recognized by the decedent as the child’s parent, with priority as the guardian.
- Estate guardian. It is also advisable to name the surviving partner as the guardian of the children’s estate so that he or she can maintain the relationship, even if not named the children’s guardian.
- An Advanced Directive, also known as a “living will,” lets you instruct your wishes regarding prolonged life support if you are facing an incurable illness.
- A medical Power of Attorney is essential if you wish for your partner to act for you in the event that you become incapacitated. You can have a separate power of attorney for businesses and finances.
- Burial, Funeral and Remains Planning. Having your wishes in writing will ensure that you will be buried next to your partner, or that he or she will receive your remains, and be included at the funeral.
- Caring for Minors. Work with your attorney to ensure that your child or children are covered by your gifting plans.
- Banking. Include a will clause, and specify that the parties did open joint bank accounts to be held jointly, with all proceeds going to the survivor and not with the intention to maintain “accounts of convenience.”
Work with an experienced estate planning attorney to ensure the welfare and safety of your children and to safeguard your estate.