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Estate & Incapacity Planning for Same-Sex Couples

It is very important to me that all people receive equal protection under the law. I am honored to have worked with and advocated for the LGBTQ community throughout most of my legal career.

Same-sex married couples did not have any of the legal rights afforded to heterosexual married couples until June 26, 2013 when the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in the Windsor case. It was therefore very necessary for LGBTQ individuals to have legal documents that designated their same sex partner or spouse as authorized medical decision-maker and financial decision-maker in the event of their incapacity. While the Windsor decision was the first step to equality unfortunately, the Supreme Court left it up to the states to determine whether to honor a same-sex marriage performed in another state. Consequently, many federal benefits such as social security survivor benefits were still unattainable by the LGBTQ community after June 2013. Once the Supreme Court issued its decision in Obergefell on June 26, 2015, all federal laws, rights and benefits became available to same-sex married couples regardless of the state of domicile (this does not apply to domestic partners or, people who have had a civil union ceremony).

While we have seen amazing legal developments in the span of two years it does not negate the continuing need for same-sex couples (whether married or not) to engage in advance legal planning. After all, we are all mortal and we will age.

Many same sex households and unmarried heterosexual couples do not have children who, traditionally, are the providers of long-term care as people age. Did you ever ask yourself, “Who is going to take care of me?” “Will my partner be allowed to make legal and medical decisions for me, if I am incapacitated?”

What if you die without a Will? In Florida, a domestic or same sex partner will not automatically inherit the couple’s assets, and the deceased partner’s assets may end up being distributed to the person’s family according to current law. This is why it is important to take charge of your life and plan ahead.

Sharing my experience as an advocate and an educator for the LGBTQ community raises awareness of the unique issues and the importance of same-sex couples engaging in advance legal planning for many of the same reasons their hetero counterparts do. When you meet with me, we will talk about your goals and co-create a legal plan tailored to meet them so that you and your partner or, spouse may have the future you envision and peace of mind.

Law Office of Stephanie L. Schneider, P.A.