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

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.

Of the things we’d rather not think about, death certainly tops the list. But whether you see the end of life in spiritual, practical, or philosophical terms, it’s something we all must confront eventually. In the words of one person’s living will, “Death is as much a reality as birth, growth, maturity, and old age—it is the one certainty.”

The unpleasantness of the topic can make planning for death easy to put off. In fact, the vast majority of Americans will leave this earth without ever having prepared a will. But when the reality of death is fast approaching, perhaps through a serious illness, we should seize the opportunity to prepare for what lies ahead.

Here are five things to consider doing: