LGBT Estate Planning

Maryland Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual
& Transgender Estate Planning

500 E Pratt St, Suite 900, Baltimore, MD 21202-3133 • 410.332.8626 • info@mdlgbtestateplanning.com

The Greek philosopher Socrates once said, “When the debate is lost, slander becomes the tool of the loser.” He was lucky he didn’t live in the age of Facebook.

Thanks to the vast social network, it has never been easier to express an opinion about someone—however unflattering the sentiment may be. In addition to posting written words, it can also be hurtful to upload photographs and videos that were meant for a private audience. And when the object of online derision is an ex-spouse, the pain inflicted can be especially acute.

After choosing a companion of good character, it can be hard to image that he or she would so publicly betray the confidences of life’s most important partnership. But the adversity of marital problems can change people, and it sometimes brings out the worst in them.

How then can an engaged couple ensure that their relationship won’t end with cutting remarks and embarrassing images on social media? Drawing up a prenuptial agreement is actually a good place to start. A prenup can include a “social media clause,” which explains how spouses, and former spouses, should behave online.

Even if you have a valid will, it probably doesn’t address a surprisingly valuable asset—your frequent flyer miles. Whether you often travel by air or simply use an airline credit card, these miles can quickly add up.

Some credit card companies will give you thousands of miles just for opening an account, as well as additional points for every purchase you make. Airlines value these miles differently, but each mile is typically worth about 1.5 cents. That means that a cache of 200,000 miles could be worth $3,000.00. That’s not nothing, but of course the real value comes in using the miles to book free air travel, perhaps even in business class.

Upon your death, some airlines allow you to bequeath your unused miles to loved ones, but others do not. In a few cases, the airline’s policy is not entirely clear-cut. The best approach is to make provisions for your frequent flyer miles in your estate plan. This will ensure that to the extent the airline allows it, your miles will be passed on to someone you care about. Here are four steps to consider taking:

Finding the Right Lawyer for You

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A good lawyer is like a good friend—someone who is smart and honest, has your best interests at heart, and is enjoyable to be around. But finding such a lawyer can be an intimidating experience. Should you look online? Ask a friend to suggest someone? And how do you know when you’ve found the lawyer you need? Here are five things to look for when seeking legal counsel:

1. LGBT Bona Fides

Your first priority should be to find a fellow member of the LGBT community. Working with a lawyer means letting down your guard and entrusting your confidences to a stranger who is also a professional. You will probably feel more comfortable doing this if the professional in question has had life experiences similar to yours.

A gay or lesbian lawyer is also more likely to understand your legal concerns on a personal level. He or she will probably be better informed about the latest changes in the laws affecting LGBT people and will know how to leverage the law to your greatest advantage.

A successful small business is rightly a point of pride. It means that plans were made, risks were taken, and sweat equity was liberally invested. When things go right, the resulting enterprise may become the livelihood of the founder and members of his family. After the hope for initial success, the founder’s greatest desire may be for the business to continue after he is out of the picture.

This is easier said than done. Business “succession planning,” as it’s called, can be complicated stuff. But it can also be vital to ensuring that the business continues if something unexpected happens to an owner.

There may be only one owner who simply wants to leave the business to a family member. In this case, the owner should have a Last Will & Testament that includes a specific bequest of the business to the family member in question.

If, however, there are multiple owners and one of them dies, the surviving owners may want to purchase the decedent’s share of the enterprise. If this happens, how will the value of the late owner’s share be determined? And where will the survivors come up with the money to buy it?

A well-thought-out succession plan will address questions like these.