As the nation continues to grapple over same-sex marriage, thousands of Tennessee couples continue to live in loving and long-term same-sex unions. While the political hot topic is far from settled in the media and the courts, those within the LGBT community move on with their lives. While many aspects of same-sex unions are exactly the same as heterosexual marriages, there are differences in how same-sex couples should approach estate planning.
The continuing legal wrangling over gay marriage leaves many couples on tenuous legal ground. Even if their union is recognized in their state of residence, court rulings could have a negative impact on the legality of the marriage. Furthermore, if the couple moves to another state where the laws differ, difficulties could follow. The best way to approach estate planning is to create a clear and comprehensive body of legal documents that outline the wishes of both parties.
This begins with a will, in which one's chosen heirs are clearly named. A living trust may also offer a good solution, and can help loved ones avoid probate. The trust also serves to shield assets from seizure due to financial strife. There are a range of options in structuring a living trust, and anyone considering this path should work with an estate planning professional to determine the right way to create and fund the trust.
In addition to addressing matters of inheritance, same-sex couples in Tennessee should take particular care in designating each other as their legal representative in the event of incapacitation. By drafting both financial and medical powers of attorney documents, both partners can ensure that the other will be the individual who is able to make all financial and health care decisions in the event of a medical emergency. When the estate planning process is complete, all other family members should be made aware of who will be granted these decision-making responsibilities if the need should arise. This can help avoid contention between loved ones, which is a common occurrence.
Source: Forbes, "Estate Planning Advice For LGBT Couples", June 10, 2015