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Estate planning is important for California same-sex couples

It is vitally important for same-sex partners in California to maintain estate plans. A sudden illness or death can cause a huge legal mess if you have not secured your rights.
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    January 18, 2014 /24-7PressRelease/ -- Estate planning is important for California same-sex couples

Article provided by The Renaissance Law Group, a P.C.
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Although same-sex marriage is legal and same-sex partners are receiving more legal benefits in California, court cases regarding same-sex issues keep everyone on their toes, waiting for the next shoe to drop. The recent legal mess in Utah is a good example of why same-sex couples should double-check their estate planningdocuments.

Last year, residents in that state voted to ban same-sex marriage. In December, a Federal District Court judge overruled the ban, allowing same-sex couples to marry -- which over 1,000 immediately did. While the state appealed the District Court ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that no such marriages could be performed in Utah during the appeal process. Fortunately, the federal government ordered that the recent marriages are legally binding, granting extensive rights to those who were married in the three-week period.

Why it matters

As Californians know, same-sex partners are not treated the same in every state. Those who travel or move to another state or country may find that the rights they enjoy in the Golden State are limited or completely absent elsewhere.

Horror stories are told about partners who are unable to see each other during a medical emergency because a particular medical facility does not recognize them as family. A sudden death can force a partner out of a shared home if the deed was only in the deceased partner's name. The uncertainty of consistent recognition of same-sex marriages and partnerships stresses the importance of maintaining up-to-date wills, trusts, powers of attorney and health care directives.

Essential documents for same-sex partners

It is important to establish an estate plan, no matter your marital status or gender preference. Following are some basic documents you should have, regardless of your level of assets or income:
-Wills: A will takes effect only upon death and designates who will obtain your assets after you are gone. You may also choose who will be the guardian of your children in your will.

-Trusts: A trust can help protect your hard-earned assets from probate and estate tax costs. It also allows you to be more creative with end-of-life planning than does a will.

-Powers of attorney: In the event you are unable to attend to your own financial matters, a power of attorney appoints someone to act on your behalf.

-Advance health care directive: A health care directive -- also called a living will -- allows you to provide guidance to your family and medical care providers about your preferences regarding such issues as medical treatment, resuscitation and a final resting place. The directive also appoints a person to make medical decisions for you in the event you are unable to do so yourself.

Consult a lawyer

If you do not have an estate plan -- or have not recently updated your existing documents -- consult an experienced estate planning lawyer. An attorney knowledgeable about probate, elder law, family law and same-sex partnership issues can help you put together a plan that best serves your needs.

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