Legally married? Here’s how LGBTQ+ couples can plan their finances

  • When it comes to unlocking and reaping long-term financial benefits, legal marriage is an important factor for you and your partner.
  • There are certain documents that all couples should have to make certain that their wishes are carried out, in life or death.
  • Specify your wishes and designate the people you trust to carry them out.

While there still are several protective benefits for LGBTQ+ couples at the federal level, the issue lies in the state and local levels where benefits have not been equalized and laws to combat discrimination are yet to be put in place. This takes a toll on how LGBTQ+ couples have access to credit, healthcare and housing benefits.

Moreover, the rules across the country differ on family financial planning options, especially when it comes to matters dealing with parental rights and adoption.

In the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic and rampant changes in the country’s political landscape, people are obviously driven by how fragile life is and try to put their affairs in order. LGBTQ+ folks are no different.

In fact, you may actually be living with the very real fear that any legal foothold you gain as a community can be overturned overnight. That is why financial protection is an absolute must, especially when it comes to married couples.

There are certain documents that all couples should have to make certain that their wishes are carried out, in life or death. In order to safeguard your finances, it’s best to put a plan in place that specifies your wishes and designates the people you trust to carry them out. Start here:

Medical formalities

Everyone faces the real risk of a medical emergency. That is why it’s so important to be prepared. For LGBTQ+ couples who are not legally married, the “next-of-kin” status may not be given to you when you go to a medical facility. In the case of a medical emergency, you may even be treated as legal strangers.

This could lead to serious complications, especially when one of you is incapacitated and the hospital bypasses the other and calls a relative instead.

That is why it is essential for you to have and carry medical directives, which includes living wills, health care proxies and medical powers of attorney – even for couples who are legally married – just to ensure your rights are protected and your medical wishes are fulfilled.

Wills

A will is a necessity, even if you can’t bear the thought of losing each other. The document clearly and specifically lays down your wishes on how your assets should be distributed.

In case such a document does not exist, the state may have to intervene and implement a “default” distribution plan. This usually implies that the assets go to your legal spouse. In case, you don’t have a legal spouse, it will go to your nearest blood relative. However, these rules vary state to state)

If you want your partner to continue living in the personal residence you both share now after your death or you want your partner to inherit your assets, especially if you are unmarried, do ensure a will is in place.

Power of attorney

When financial emergencies strike home, it is absolutely critical for your spouse or partner to be able to step in immediately and handle your money.

However, without the proper documentation, this cannot be done without a court order. Ensure you have a properly executed power of attorney to handle your partner’s finances.

Trusts

Placing your possessions in a trust will be a big help for your beneficiaries to avoid probate, which is an expensive and long process in some states.

Putting assets into a trust can help heirs avoid probate, which can be a time-consuming and costly process in some states. The trust will also protect the privacy of your heirs. Moreover, you have the freedom to dictate when and to whom the assets have to be distributed – either immediately after your death or as a long-term directive.

Beneficiaries

The designation your beneficiary occupies on certain assets such as life insurance, retirement accounts and even bank and investment accounts take precedence over wills and other standby instructions. This is why it is essential to review beneficiary designations to ensure you have named the right beneficiaries and they reflect your current wishes.

Titles

The title you give to your assets, particularly property, should synchronize with your will and make it easier to pass them on. For example, a house titled “Joint Tenants with Rights of Survivorship” will go straight to the surviving owner when one of you dies instead of going through your will. However, if the asset is titled with an individual name, it has to pass according to your will.

Domestic partnership

What happens to your possessions when your relationship ends? Unmarried couples often lack legal protection for their assets. A domestic partnership or cohabitation agreement coupled with separation plans can be of great help in outlining what each partner’s financial expectations are and how the assets are divided if the relationship ends. However, remember not all states facilitate agreements by unmarried couples.

Custody

Children are the joy of the family. However, they are also a massive financial focus, particularly when you are planning for fertility treatments, adoption or surrogacy.

You will have to also deal with laws that vary greatly in some states with regard to parental rights of LGBTQ+ couples and their access to child care services. Some states could also make you agree to additional adoption procedures if one of you is a biological parent to the child but your partner isn’t.

Get help

Always consider and reconsider the implications of any action you plan to take. Talk to qualified professionals before making any decision. You can reach out for help with taxes, financial planning and legal issues.