California is one of a handful of states across the country that recognize the rights of same-sex couples, but for people who are in domestic partnerships in California, the fact is that they still face some unique challenges when it comes to transferring assets, protecting heirs and ensuring that their estate plans give them the protections that they seek. Michael Sawamura, an estate planning attorney in Sacramento and Northern California, understands these challenges and is committed to helping clients in domestic partnerships achieve the results they desire.
By registering a domestic partnership under California law, same-sex couples are able to obtain the protections available to most traditional married spouses under state law. However, federal law still may not recognize the rights of domestic partners to inherit from one another without paying costly inheritance taxes on transfers of property after the death of a partner. For this reason, it may be necessary to set up a trust to provide for the smooth transfer of assets to the surviving partner and other intended heirs. A trust can protect partners from unnecessary taxation and provide other benefits for couples with substantial wealth and property.
In addition to a trust, domestic partners should also make sure they have basic estate planning covered. Generally, this includes working with an experienced attorney to draft a will, a power of attorney and a living will, which informs relevant parties about a person's health care wishes in the event he or she becomes incapacitated or unable to make such decisions on his or her own.
While it may seem like a chore that can be put off, those who procrastinate instead of facing their estate planning needs may regret their decision, especially if the unthinkable happens. Setting up a consultation with an experienced California estate planning attorney is an essential step, even for the young and healthy, that can pay big dividends and provide unparalleled peace of mind.