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

Fans of the comic strip Peanuts might remember a panel in which Patty and Violet are planning a party.

“Let’s not invite Charlie Brown,” Patty says.

“OK, we won’t invite Charlie Brown,” Violet replies.

“And let’s not invite Lucy,” Patty continues.

“Fine. We won’t invite Lucy,” Violet agrees.

Then, looking up from her list, Patty exclaims, “It’s a lot more fun not inviting people than it is inviting them!”

The impulse that prompted Patty’s remark can also apply when writing a will. The crazy aunt who makes homophobic remarks? She’s out. The estranged brother who refused to attend your gay wedding? He gets nothing.

All joking aside, deciding who should inherit from you requires careful thought. The most important people in your life should of course top the list. Your partner or spouse, your children, or anyone you hold dear ought to be remembered in your estate plan.

But what about those people you specifically don’t want to attend the party? The best way to keep your assets out of their hands is to have a current estate plan in place. At a minimum, this would include a will or trust, a durable power of attorney, and an advance medical directive. If you don’t have a will, your disapproving relatives might inherit from you under the laws of “intestacy.”

Your will or trust should specifically mention the people you wish to disinherit. Including their names will make it clear that they were intentionally omitted and not simply overlooked.

Your Last Will and Testament is probably the most important document you will ever sign. It’s the one item that simply must be located when the need arises. It says who will settle your estate and who will inherit your worldly goods. It can also nominate guardians for your children, appoint trustees, and disinherit hostile relations. Where should you keep such a vital document? Probably not where you might think.

Wills are decidedly low-tech instruments. Despite their importance, they consist of nothing more than paper bearing printed words and a “wet” signature. In order to open an estate, you will need to have the original will—a photocopy or electronic file will not suffice. It’s essential, then, that the hand-signed document be protected from harm and readily available when the need arises.

Any parent will tell you that raising children isn’t easy. The late-night feedings, public tantrums, and constant need for attention can leave even the most devoted mom or dad feeling exhausted. But for those of us in the LGBTQ community, simply becoming a parent can be just as challenging. Whether we try adoption, surrogacy, or other means, the process is likely to involve anxious waiting, many false starts, and difficult legal hurdles.

It’s natural then, that same-sex couples and other LGBTQ parents are especially grateful for their children and would do anything to protect them. This sense of devotion should include naming a suitable guardian to raise the child in case the parents are unexpectedly out of the picture.

The thought of having someone else raise your children may be difficult to bear. After all, no one else’s love could ever match your own. It is for this reason that every parent should give careful thought to who their child’s guardian should be. Here are some essential factors to consider.

The English author John Lyly once said, “Marriages are made in heaven and consummated on Earth.” Indeed, marriage has long been a two-sided coin. On the one side are the social and emotional aspects of the institution, the heavenly “joy and wonder” of marriage. On the other are the legal implications, the earthly rights and privileges the law grants to married couples.

After exchanging wedding bands, many couples assume that they have cemented their relationship with every benefit and privilege the law has to offer. Marriage does confer many essential rights—more than a thousand, by one count. But there are several legal protections a marriage license simply does not provide. As a consequence, couples who have tied the knot should take additional steps to ensure that they are prepared for the uncertainties of life, including the death or disability of a spouse.

Whether they are gay or straight, most couples assume that if one of them died, the surviving spouse would inherit everything left behind—the car, the house, the bank accounts, and any jewelry, furniture, or other personal property. That assumption would be wrong.