Estate Planning Considerations for LGBTQIA+ Couples

Everybody should invest in estate planning, but estate plans are especially important for same-sex couples in Michigan. Estate planning considerations for LGBTQIA+ couples include marital status, parental rights, financial security, care of each other, and personal goals.

If you and your spouse or partner belong to the LGBTQIA+ community in Michigan, contact us for reliable and personalized estate planning guidance.

Married vs. Unmarried Couples

The State of Michigan has recognized LGBTQIA+ marriage since 2015, so married LGBTQIA+ couples now have the same rights as any other couple when it comes, for example, to intestate succession or priority in being appointed conservator or guardian.

However, many LGBTQIA+ couples choose a long-term partnership over legal marriage for any number of reasons. If that is the case for you, you must ensure your estate plan reflects your relationship. This may include the following:

  • Designating your partner’s share of inheritance in your will
  • Granting your partner the authority to represent you in medical emergencies via a health care directive
  • Having the ability to access your partner’s accounts and manage assets during incapacity
  • You and your partner naming each other as beneficiaries for life insurance or other assets

2+ Committed Relationships (Throuples)

Some adults form committed relationships that involve more than two adults. While it is illegal in all 50 states and under Federal Law to marry more than one person, it is not illegal to have a committed relationship with more than one person. In general, the laws addressing jointly held assets and future inheritance in these situations may not fit the intentions of the parties. In that case, the family must use contracts and estate planning documents to ensure that their intentions are clear and will be honored. A Trust is often used to safeguard assets and keep your decisions private.

Minor Children in LGBTQIA+ Families

Minor children are one of the most important estate planning considerations for LGBTQIA+ couples. In many LGBTQIA+ families, a child has biological ties to only one of the spouses/partners or is initially adopted by only one of the two parents, even though both serve as the child’s parents, and emotional ties exists between the child and both parents.

If the child was born during the marriage, chances are both parents are listed on the birth certificate. However, being on the birth certificate is only “evidence” of parentage, not a grant of parentage. The presumption of parentage is rebuttable by a showing the there is no genetic connection to the non-birthing parent. In almost all case, this is true, and the parentage is at risk. Further, there are challenges happening all over the United States, and it is inevitable that one of these will work its way up to the Supreme Court of the United States.

Consequently, a step-parent adoption is the best practice to ensure that no one will ever be able to challenge the legal connection between each parent and the child. Adoption can prevent the legal nightmare of having to fight for guardianship if the biological parent dies and other relatives decide to step in and claim custody, or if for any reason the relationship between the parent dissolves.

Of course, like all parents, you should appoint a trusted guardian for your minor children in case both of you pass away or become incapacitated before the children turn 18. You should also create a trust for financial management until your child is old enough to manage the money independently.

Issues From Before Obergefell

There are still some issues that result from laws or lack of laws from the time before Obergefell and legalized marriage. For children born before marriage was recognized in Michigan, legal parentage would rely on such things as: availability of second parent adoption, state where the child was conceived, state where the child was delivered, how the child was conceived, whether or not the parents are still together, whether or not there is a known donor, whether or not one or both parent subsequently married someone other than the other intended parent, and whether or not a known donor is or was married. These situations must be analyzed thoroughly, and solutions crafted by a qualified and experienced attorney.

Another issue is that many couples who were together for decades did not have the opportunity to marry after 2015 because their partner passed away or became incapacitated prior to or shortly after Obergefell was decided. They were then denied or did not apply for survivor or dependent Social Security believing they would not qualify. In those cases, the Social Security Administration will still honor surviving “spouse” and dependent disability claims upon a showing that the couple would have married if the Defense of Marriage Act or their state’s laws had not prevented it. These are claims that now should be pursued.

Why You Need an Attorney With Experience in Estate Planning for the LGBTQIA+ Community

When it comes to estate planning, you must create a comprehensive, up-to-date plan that reflects your goals and family situation. It’s important to consult a skilled, dedicated attorney with a high level of attention to current legal relationships, the needs of LGBTQIA+ family, and the possible solutions in estate planning.

The reliable estate lawyers of Bassett Murray Law Group can do the following:

  • Identify and correct issues with your current legal relationship status
  • Suggest the optimal legal tools to protect, control, and pass assets during and after your lifetime
  • Help your family avoid probate
  • Include the necessary provisions for minor children in your estate plan
  • Consider your situation and goals, like providing for a long-term partner or a special needs child
  • Revise any existing estate planning documents, like a will, health care directives, or prenuptial/postnuptial agreements, to ensure they fit your current family situation

Bassett Murray Law Group: End-to-End Estate Planning Support for the LGBTQIA+ Community in Ann Arbor, MI

If you are a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, you may have distinct estate planning needs. Contact Bassett Murray Law Group to consult an experienced estate lawyer who understands estate planning considerations for LGBTQIA+ people in Michigan. Call us or fill out the online form to schedule a consultation today.

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Bassett Murray Law Group, PLLC
2045 Hogback Road
​Ann Arbor, MI ​48105
Phone: 734-930-9200
Fax: 734-930-9942

Petoskey Office
By Appointment only
3319 Lakeside Dr S
Petoskey, MI 49770
Phone: 231-427-2292

    Bassett Murray Law Group, PLLC
    2045 Hogback Road
    ​Ann Arbor, MI ​48105
    Phone: 734-930-9200
    Fax: 734-930-9942