LGBT Estate Planning

Maryland Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual
& Transgender Estate Planning

111 South Calvert St, Suite 1400, Baltimore, MD 21202 • 410.783.6349 • info@mdlgbtestateplanning.com

In this astonishing year, where reality is even stranger than fiction, it’s hard to know what will happen next. Economic insecurity, natural disasters, and political upheaval all fuel a sense of anxiety—especially among many of us in the LGBTQ community. And of course, these worries come in conjunction with concerns about our own health and the fear of COVID-19.

In this climate of uncertainty, the best steps we can take are to control the things we can, to be ready for what could happen, even if it can be hard for us to think about. Here are five things you can do to help you prepare for the unexpected:

1. Prepare an advance directive. This legal document enables you to name someone to manage your health care if you become unable to do so for yourself. The person you choose, called your “health care agent,” can work with your doctors to help ensure that you receive the best care possible.

An advance directive also allows you to choose the type of treatment you would like to receive in an end-of-life situation, like a terminal illness. Many people simply want to be kept comfortable when the end is near. Others choose interventions, such as artificial nourishment and hydration. Whatever your wishes, preparing an advance directive will enable you make them clear to your health care agent and your doctors.

Your advance directive can also say who should make your final arrangements when the time comes. This sensitive and important responsibility would typically fall to your next of kin. Many of us in the LGBTQ community would rather name someone close to us—a dear friend or important family—to take on this role. Your advance directive is the perfect document for naming the best person for the job.

In some ways, there has never been a better time to be trans. Last June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that an employee cannot be fired simply for being gay, lesbian, or transgender—a historic victory for the LGBTQ community. And a broad majority of Americans now support trans rights, enabling individuals to move ahead in politics, the professional world, and their own communities regardless of their gender identity.

But as any trans person will tell you, much remains to be done. Trans individuals are often targets of violence, and the legal protections that include sexual orientation often specifically exclude gender identity. Health insurance does not typically cover hormone therapy or gender-confirmation surgery. And when it comes to public accommodations, transgender people may encounter hostility despite civil rights laws that prohibit certain businesses from discriminating against their customers.

In this climate of uncertainty, it is important to do what you can to protect yourself from discrimination—to make sure your life is the best it can be, despite the world around you. From a legal standpoint, preparing an advance medical directive may be a surprisingly good place to start.

William Shakespeare said, “A good play needs no epilogue.” When a story is compellingly told, in other words, there is no need for commentary after the curtain falls.

Like a play that is well written, a life that is well lived speaks for itself. But living well includes knowing that you have planned for what happens after you are gone. This foresight includes how easily your estate will be passed down to the people you care about.

Have you written a will that names someone to settle your estate? If something were to happen to you, do you know who would receive your assets? If you have children, have you appointed a guardian to look after them and a trustee to manage their inheritance?

If not, the commentary on your life could well include tales of confused intentions and mismanaged assets, of hurt feelings and squandered wealth. Fortunately, all it takes is a phone call to an estates and trusts attorney to make your epilogue your own.

Sheltering in place during the Covid-19 pandemic has left many of us with time to think. As news outlets keep an anxious tally of each day’s deaths and new infections, it is natural to consider how well prepared we are for the unexpected.

What would happen if I got sick? Who would have the right to take care of me? If the end came suddenly, how would my final arrangements be handled? Who would inherit my assets and settle my estate?

These are difficult questions to grapple with under the best of circumstances. In the midst of a global health crisis, they take on a new sense of urgency. Preparing an estate plan is your opportunity to answer these questions decisively—and to enjoy the peace of mind that comes from knowing that you’re ready for whatever lies ahead.

Fortunately, in some ways it’s now easier than ever to work with a lawyer and have your planning paperwork drawn up. Here are three new options to be aware of during this difficult time.