Estate planning is a fairly complex topic. The laws frequently change and are not always intuitive. However, estate planning is crucial and, while the thought of starting the estate planning process may not be something anyone looks forward to, it is something everyone needs to consider. This is especially the case for LGBTQ couples, as the Houston estate planning laws applied by the courts, unfortunately, do not adequately cover most couple’s wishes when it comes to property distribution and end-of-life decision-making powers. Below are a few things LGBTQ couples should consider when assessing their estate planning needs.
Living Wills and Health Care Powers of Attorney
Not everyone wants the same level of care if they suddenly become ill or incapacitated. However, unless you take affirmative steps to create a directive to physicians (living will) and healthcare power of attorney, courts will apply default rules when it comes to appointing someone to make decisions on your behalf.
A Directive to Physician, living will, is a document that expresses a person’s desires when it comes to end-of-life care. A healthcare power of attorney is a legal document that appoints another person to make health-care-related decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so. By creating a both of these healthcare documents, LGBTQ couples can outline their end-of-life wishes clearly, and appoint the person they want to make medical decisions on their behalf.
For LGBTQ couples who have adopted children, it is especially important to consider what would happen in the event of one parent’s untimely death. For example, if a parent passes away, their surviving partner may find themselves in a legal battle with other family members over the custody of a child they’ve been raising for years. To get around this, the non-biological parent can legally adopt the child, in which case they would automatically get custody of the child. Another option is to execute a declaration of guardian in which the parent can designate a guardian for any minor child should something happen to the parent. These matters are highly sensitive in detail and are worth the time to speak with an experienced estate planning attorney.
A will is a document that outlines how you want your property distributed upon your death. If you do not have a will, Texas law provides a system to distribute your assets. These laws are referred to as the “intestate laws.” However, the state’s intestate laws will not pass assets to a partner, unless they are married. Thus, unmarried LGBTQ couples should create a will that details their wishes clearly, as to not risk their surviving partner being excluded from any inheritance.
Are You Considering a Houston Estate Plan?
The importance of estate planning in the LGBTQ community especially, cannot be overstated. Unless you take steps now to outline your wishes, it is unlikely that the current laws will effectively address your concerns in the event of the unexpected. At the Houston estate planning law firm of McCulloch Miller, we have decades of experience helping individuals and couples develop comprehensive estate plans to carry out their wishes. We offer all estate planning prospective clients a consultation, during which we will answer any questions you have about the estate planning process and discuss how we can help. To learn more, give us a call at 713-333-8900 today.