What is love? With Valentine’s Day upon us, it’s worth grappling with this age-old question. In its truest sense, love isn’t a warm feeling or a tender moment. Love is taking action to help someone who matters to you. “Don’t just tell me you love me,” the saying goes. “Show me.”
On Valentine’s Day, many gay and lesbian couples do take action to show their love for each other—and we often take great pleasure in doing so! Whether we have been together a few months or a few decades, we cook romantic meals, send beautiful flowers, and exchange heartfelt cards to honor our relationships.
Couples who have promised to stay together “til death do us part” should consider going a step further by having “sweetheart wills” prepared. These documents will ensure that if one partner dies, the survivor will be provided for by inheriting the entire estate. The provisions in both partners’ wills would mirror each other, so the outcome would be the same regardless of which one of them died first.
For example, couples without children sometimes decide that when they are both gone, their combined estate should go to their nieces and nephews and a few carefully selected charities. The charities may have an LGBT focus, or they might promote higher education, animal welfare, or the arts.
Whether an estate plan includes charitable bequests or not, having a current one is especially important for couples who are not yet married. When an unmarried partner dies without a will, his estate will probably go to his next of kin—in most cases, that means his children, parents, or siblings. The surviving partner is effectively disinherited, no matter how long they were together.
A will is your ultimate expression of what is important to you.
When this happens, it’s usually not a result of callousness as much as simple neglect. Most people who die without a will probably meant to get one at some point in their lives and simply never did. For someone in a committed relationship, the consequences of this oversight can be heartbreaking.
With the future of LGBT equality now clouded with uncertainty, drawing up wills is more urgent than ever. Equally important is having powers of attorney and advance healthcare directives prepared. These additional documents will help you and your partner manage financial and health-related matters during any period of incapacity.
Having wills prepared might not sound like the most romantic way to mark Valentine’s Day. But providing for someone you love after you are gone is in fact extremely romantic. A will, after all, is your ultimate expression of what is important to you. It’s your way of ascribing value to the relationships you have fostered and the causes you believe in.
The traditional wedding service includes the poignant phrase, “With all that I am, and all that I have, I honor you.” Having sweetheart wills prepared puts those words into action.
Admittedly, taking action isn’t always easy. In the case of estate planning, it requires you to consider some sobering questions and worst-case scenarios. If my partner and I were to die together, who would inherit our house, bank accounts, and other assets? Who would settle our estate and care for our minor children?
As difficult as these questions may be, they will be far easier to confront when heads are clear and emotions calm, rather than after a crisis erupts, when it may simply be too late.
This Valentine’s Day, don’t just say you love someone, show them, by having sweetheart wills prepared. As part of a complete estate plan, these documents will help you protect yourselves no matter what challenges may lie ahead.