Sexual orientation may determine your life partner, but it shouldn’t determine whether you seek guidance in important areas of your life. LGBT couples who want to protect their status may want to consider the help of qualified legal, medical, tax, insurance and financial professional fields. Because same-gender couples don’t have the same legal qualifications as heterosexual married couples, they should be informed of their options and manage their legal and financial needs with the help of supportive professionals.
While married heterosexual couples are afforded certain benefits under state and federal laws, same-gender couples in committed relationships aren’t eligible in most states. As a result, they must take extra steps to ensure the welfare of both partners in the event one becomes ill, unemployed, deceased or experiences another one of life’s calamities. The same holds true for heterosexual couples that choose not to get married but share assets or have children together.
It’s important for LGBT couples to choose service providers they trust with whom they can be open about their relationship, and to work with professionals who can help them find opportunities to establish legal safeguards where they do not exist.
The Federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) defines marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman for purposes of all federal laws, and provides that states need not recognize a marriage from another state if it is between persons of the same sex. There are many federal laws that cover heterosexual married couples that same-gender couples should replicate as best in a legal document:
• Wills (especially revocable living trusts and pour-over wills)
• Advance Health-Care Directives
• Health-Care Authorization Proxies
• Durable powers of attorney such as a Health insurance Portability Accountability Act (HiPAA) release
• Cohabitation/Domestic Partnerships and Parenting Agreement.
Enlist a good lawyer who is familiar with the unique LGBT challenges of protecting partners outside of marriage laws to help close the gap in legal protections. Legal documents can help partners protect their ability to make healthcare decisions, maintain custody of children and manage shared assets in the event one partner becomes incapacitated or dies.
Because all relationships can go sour, those in same-gender relationships don’t have legally recognized marriage documentations, which are required to dictate how to split assets if the relationship were to ever dissolve. Same sex couples should establish this documentation on their own. With proper documents, parameters can be established in case there is a split to protect both parties.
Know your health care provider
In the event of a serious illness, same-gender couples can also enlist the help of their healthcare providers to ensure their rights are protected. As long as you have the required legal documents, you can preserve the right to receive medical information regarding your partner’s care and make decisions as allowed by the healthcare directive in place.
Account for household expenses
A competent tax professional can help same-gender couples find ways to help reduce state and federal taxes on their income. It is extremely important to keep records of who contributes what because ownership, tax liability and deductions are based on percentage of contribution.
Insure in a reliable future
Insurance is essential in helping same-gender couples protect their assets. Investing in appropriate levels of life, disability and other insurance policies that can replace income in the event one partner becomes disabled or dies is powerful protection for all couples.
A qualified financial adviser can help unmarried partners create a financial plan that considers all aspects of their financial well being. This includes Social Security, pension, inheritance, tax filing, federal benefits, etc. to protect the rights of both partners. A financial planner may also help partners establish other income replacement strategies.