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 idea of being “proactive” has never held much appeal. Burglar alarms are often installed only after the house has been looted. Trip insurance is frequently purchased for the vacation after the one that goes awry. And yes, barn doors have been known to be locked after the horse has been stolen.

The same is true of having a will prepared. It’s one activity that can’t be put off until after the need arises. Instead, it is often some galvanizing life event that first prompts someone to prepare a will.

  • “My mother died and her estate was a mess. I want to make sure my partner and children aren’t burdened by my poor planning.”
  • “I am going on a vacation and will be traveling by air and sea. It will be easier to relax if I know my affairs are in order, just in case!”
  • “I am having surgery and want to make sure my will is ready, on the off chance things don’t go as planned.”
  • “We are getting married, and I heard that if I were to die, my spouse wouldn’t get all of my estate. I want a will to make sure he gets everything.”
  • “I was in a serious car accident, and I realized that if I hadn’t survived, my partner would have inherited nothing from my estate. I need to make sure she is protected in case I’m not so lucky next time.”

Instead of waiting for a wake-up call, when should you write your first will? For those of us in the LGBT community, having a will prepared can be especially urgent.

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.