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

Early in the Brady Bunch series, Bobby is struggling with being a stepchild. In a tender moment, his new mom says, “Listen, the only steps in this house are the ones that lead up to your bedroom.” With that well-placed sentiment, Carol handled one of the more serious problems the show grappled with—the challenges of being a “blended family.”

When Mike and Carol tied the knot, each of them had prior children. As any fan of the 1970s sitcom will remember, these stepsiblings would know antics and tribulations—from the bruised nose that played havoc with Marcia’s social life to the coveted attic bedroom that pitted her against her brother Greg.

Legal problems were never an issue for the Bradys. But as many gay and lesbian couples know too well, blended families often do face legal challenges. For example, what would have happened if Mike had died unexpectedly? Would Carol have had the legal right to care for Greg, Peter, and Bobby? If Mike and Carol both died without Wills, would all six children inherit from them equally?

Before they exchanged vows, Mike and Carol should have taken these questions to an estate-planning attorney. He or she would have suggested how they could protect themselves legally, no matter what lay ahead.

Bob Hope once quipped, “If you haven’t any charity in your heart, you have the worst kind of heart trouble.” Surely he was on to something. The best sorts of people are admired not for their earnings but for their giving—whether of their time, their talent, or their treasure.

Many of us in the LGBT community give generously by supporting causes we believe in. We donate towards AIDS research, we lobby for equality, we volunteer at animal shelters, and we support the arts. This level of engagement is not unknown outside our community, but as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender citizens, we often embrace important causes with a special kind of passion.

With a little advance planning, these charitable impulses can continue to help others after we are gone.

A financial Power of Attorney is an essential document in any estate plan. It enables you to appoint someone you trust to manage your finances and other legal matters in case you become unable to do so yourself. The person you name, called your attorney in fact, generally has broad powers to handle things like paying your bills, accessing your safe-deposit box, managing your investments, and even selling or mortgaging your house.

A “Durable” Power of Attorney remains in effect even if you become incompetent, which is when the document is most likely to be needed. Because it may be years before your Power of Attorney is used, you should review it every three to five years to make sure it remains current. Here are four reasons to consider having your Power of Attorney revised:

With same-sex marriage now legal across the country, we’ve been hearing a lot lately about the “benefits of marriage.” For most of us, these benefits are personal. We know that we are part of a team, that someone will be there for us in a crisis, and that Sunday afternoons need never be spent alone.

But marriage also confers hundreds of legal benefits, and the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges ensures that they now apply to gay and straight couples alike. Couples who tie the knot can avoid testifying against each other in court, can roll over a retirement account when one spouse dies, and enjoy preferential treatment from Social Security, Immigration, and the military.

One benefit that often goes overlooked, however, is the right to protect the family home from certain types of creditors. Titling the house as “tenants by the entirety” will prevent someone who successfully sues either spouse from seizing the property to pay off the judgment. In addition, if either spouse files for bankruptcy, the property will be beyond the reach of creditors.