Domestic Partnership Estate Planning

According to a recent article in the New York Times, the topic of marriage and family is still being hotly debated in our country. Although some states have granted same sex couples the option to choose a “civil union”  or “domestic partnership” status, many couples say it isn’t enough. Because they cannot use the term “married”, many of these couples are unable to receive the same rights and protections as a traditional married couple under the federal law. This is particularly distressing when a same sex couple is unable to file joint tax returns, is unable to provide benefits to their partner through an employer, and has to deal with medical staff who do not recognize domestic partnership in an emergency situation.

In California, if you are registered as domestic partners, you can enjoy the benefits afforded under the California state law.  It is, however, still important to execute an Advanced Health Care Directive to ensure that medical personnel recognize the authority of your trusted partner to act as a health care advocate and to make medical decisions for you. Some hospitals might not understand domestic partnership, but ALL of them understand and respect the role of a Health Care Agent. Similarly, by creating a Trust you can nominate the person you want to act as the successor trustee upon your incapacity or death, and who the beneficiaries of your property will be, regardless of whether you have a marriage license or not.

It is very important for same sex couples to do estate planning to make sure their wishes are followed.