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Estate plans vital for same-sex couples

For gay and lesbian couples, estate planning is more challenging than for traditional spouses. Because federal law does not recognize civil unions and gay marriage, passing on property, money or other items requires each partner to make accommodations for the other in a will. Without a will, and with no legal spouse or no children, estates would be tied up in probate.

Gay and lesbian couples in Miami and elsewhere, then, should consider the following to avoid assets going into probate, experts said:

  1. Put any property, such as homes or cars, into both names.
  2. If assets are considerable enough, such as more than $100,000, put all liquid assets or property into a trust account.
  3. Write a contract similar to a prenuptial agreement. In that contract, both members of the couple can spell out how they would want to divide assets in death or even if they should split up.

One thing not to do, experts cautioned, is to have one partner legally adopt the other. In an attempt to protect their assets, some couples have taken to adoption to become legally recognized as family members. But, experts said, it shouldn't just be a last resort. It should be a no-no.

First, they said, once an adoption is complete, intimate relations between the two could be considered sexual abuse or incest. Then, even if the partners split up, they remain legally attached. Unlike ending a marriage with a divorce, ending an adoption is far more difficult and legally troubling. If couples try to end the adoption, they will wind up having to return to court and tell a judge they are no longer together. Since the relationship was supposedly parent-child, admission that the adoption was for financial protection could be tantamount to committing perjury.

While every American should have a will and an estate plan, it is especially vital for gay and lesbian partners. If they love each other enough to be together in life, they need to take legal steps to provide for each other in death.

Source: Investing Answers, "Protecting Your Partner's Assets? This Move Can Backfire In A Big Way," Christine Giordano, Aug. 20, 2012

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