Though all individuals and families can benefit from estate planning, it is especially important when LGBTQ couples are involved. Historical laws, and even current laws in some locations, were drafted with heterosexual married couples in mind.

Applying these laws to LGBTQ couples can leave a partner without crucial rights when it comes to inheriting an estate or managing their partner’s affairs in the case of incapacity.

Thoughtful estate planning by an experienced professional can provide protection for those you care about. At Pierro, Connor & Strauss, our New York estate planning team stays informed of changes to the laws so that we can skillfully implement the tools that achieve your estate planning goals.

We understand the challenges that LGBTQ individuals and families face and we work with you to meet those challenges head-on.

Estate Planning Team
Caryn B. Keppler
Caryn B. Keppler

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Same-sex couple holding each other

Why estate planning is important

When the U.S. Supreme Court recognized same-sex marriages in its 2015 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, it paved the way to apply the tax and other financial benefits of marriage to same-sex couples. However, this alone did not solve all of the questions and gaps that can arise when it comes to determining the rights of LGBTQ partners regarding, children, property and asset distribution. Estate planning allows couples to take charge, solidifying their wishes in situations where applying default state and federal laws may leave gaps or lead to unwanted results.

When individuals pass away, their probate assets can either be distributed according to their wills or according to New York’s laws of intestate succession. Not too long ago, the intestate laws did not account for same-sex spouses, who were not recognized as legal spouses. Estate planning became a way to achieve what the law did not provide for by default. Today, with same-sex spouses formally recognized, gay and lesbian spouses have the same spousal rights as heterosexual couples when it comes to inheritance. However, unmarried partners, whether of the same or opposite sex, are still not included as next of kin.

Transgender individuals and their families may face additional estate planning issues, including but not limited to identity and gender markers on official documents, insurability, health care, burial and funeral arrangements and health care.

At Pierro, Connor & Strauss, we are here to help gay, lesbian, bisexual, and/or transgender individuals and couples protect their legal rights with carefully crafted wills, trusts, and other estate planning tools. Our experienced professionals take the time to understand your needs and then craft wills and trusts and use other tools to achieve the outcome your desire. Speak with an estate planning lawyer to received personalized advice on how to meet your goals with the tools available in New York.

Estate Planning Challenges Unique to the LGBTQ Community

Complications in estate planning for LGBTQ couples extend beyond the most obvious legal questions. For example, same-sex and other non-traditional couples often face hostility within their own families. Unaccepting family members sometimes try to cut a partner out of discussions when it comes to making important decisions for someone who is incapacitated. Solidifying a partner’s role with a living will can eliminate this conflict.

LGBTQ families also face unique legal questions when it comes to children. Legally adopted children share the full rights of biological children when it comes to inheritance. However, parents in the LGBTQ community are less likely to be biological parents, and sometimes one parent is the biological or legal adoptive parent. This can create a gap in which the child and/or other parent do not share full familial rights. Fortunately, this exclusion can often be addressed with proper estate planning.

Some LGBTQ families prefer to keep family matters confidential. The probate process, however, is public. Estate planning can reduce or eliminate the need for assets to go through the probate process, which retains privacy.

Speak with an LGBTQ estate planning lawyer

At Pierro, Connor & Strauss, we offer personalized attention when it comes to preparing wills, trusts, and other estate planning solutions. We consider your goals, optimal tax situations, and other factors that may affect how your estate can be structured. We can also assist LGBTQ individuals and families in related areas such as estate planning for art, asset protection planning and long-term care.

It always pays to be proactive about estate planning, and this is doubly true for the LGBTQ community. Reach out to the attorneys at Pierro, Connor & Strauss in the New York City region, Long Island, Westchester, Hudson, the Capital Region including Albany, Schenectady, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Columbia and Greene Counties, as well as the Lake Placid area to discuss your New York estate planning needs.

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Contact us today for a consultation and we’ll be happy to help take the worry out of tomorrow so you can live today.

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