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Planning for Domestic Partners and Same-Sex Couples

Gay and lesbian couples, as well as unmarried heterosexual couples, face unique challenges in protecting jointly owned property or in dividing assets in case the relationship ends. If you are a member of the GLBT community and you have failed to plan properly, you may be precluded from having any role in the decision making process should you or your partner be faced with an accident or illness. If you have not put your wishes in a legal document, you risk losing the right to choose who you want to make vital decisions about your health care and finances. Your partner will have no right to inherit your property, raise your children (unless you are both the biological parents), and may not even have the right to visit you in the hospital.

Many states and local jurisdictions offer domestic partnerships, civil unions or similar methods of legal recognition for same-sex relationships. However, these rights vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. (Maryland legalized same-sex marriages in 2012 and its agencies give gay married couples the same rights as heterosexual couples). Although there are no often no spousal benefits for same-sex couples, as there are for heterosexual married couples, in many states, proper estate planning can resolve many issues. For example, a living trust can establish a domestic partner as the trustee, or manager of the client's affairs should a person become incapacitated through illness or accident as well as provide for privacy should a couple wish to remain confidential. A Health Care Power of Attorney can provide for access to a partner during a time of crisis. A proper estate plan will ensure that individual's assets are distributed in the manner in wish they choose.

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