California has long been one of the more progressive states when it comes to marriage equality. The increased acceptance of same-sex unions has allowed many couples to prepare for the future with their estate plan. However, that does not alter the reality that there can be complications with a same-sex relationship. There are certain factors that should be remembered with such complicated estate planning.
Although same-sex marriage was legalized in the U.S., some couples might have gotten caught up in the past when certain states allowed it and others did not. The belief that the marriage might not have been legitimate prevented some from taking the proper legal steps if they parted ways, but were technically married. Failure to acknowledge this could be an issue if one of the partners or spouses dies and the assets are up for dispute.
Wills are an integral part of any relationship regardless of the amount in the portfolios of the couple. Same-sex couples should have a will, but they should also consider a power of attorney to act on the other person's behalf if it is necessary. If the person becomes incapacitated and there is not a legal designation of the other person as the representative, this could be an issue, so a health care proxy can be useful. The family of the person might contest a will or dispute that the partner should be making decisions without the power of attorney. Such issues as a living will and other health requests can be carried out with these documents.
For same-sex couples, children can be a complicated matter. If one parent is the biological parent, it is vital that there be an adoption for full security of the children. Some couples do not do that. The assets could be in dispute if this is not done. In fact, the child could be left out completely if the person he or she thought was a parent was not a biological parent and the estate plan was not completed. Estate planning can be a difficult matter to navigate regardless of the family, financial and personal situations. For any case, having legal help is key to ensure everything is covered.
Source: USA Today, "Estate planning is more complicated for same-sex couples," Tina Orem, June 17, 2017