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Although each individual or family engaging in estate planning is unique, most have common concerns: living out the remainder of their lives with dignity and making sure their families are provided for after they are gone. However, if an individual or their family has been historically discriminated against or made to feel unsafe, those concerns hit a bit differently. Thus, here are 5 estate planning tips for LGBT individuals and their families.
Feel confident when you engage with your attorney by knowing your rights
Clients have the right to confidentiality, competency, and zealous representation from their New York attorneys. Attorneys who breach any of these ethical duties are subject to sanction and/or punishment, up to and including the revocation of their license to practice law.
Choose an attorney that you trust, and talk openly and honestly with them
Your estate plan is only as good as the information you provide your attorney. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to your attorney about who you are and who your loved ones are, find a new attorney, because otherwise, your planning will not meet your needs.
Have an attorney prepare your advance directives
Advance directives allow you to select the person or persons who you want to make health care and financial decisions for you, as well as the person who will handle your funeral and burial arrangements. Without these documents in place, you have no control over who may be asked to make these decisions for you – and the default is often a parent or sibling if you are not legally married. In order to prevent any scenario in which someone you wouldn’t want handling your affairs becomes the one empowered to do so, have a competent attorney prepare these documents.
Consider if you should plan to avoid probate
Probate is the court-supervised process of gathering and distributing an individual’s possessions and assets after their death. New York probate is based on the notion that families are made up of individuals related only by blood, marriage, or formal adoption. For many LGBT individuals and their families, this is problematic on many levels, as their families are statistically more likely to include individuals they are not considered legally related to.
Additionally, New York requires that certain individuals related to a deceased individual by blood, marriage, or formal adoption must be notified of the beginning of the probate process. These individuals may be able to contest the deceased individual’s will and prevent possessions and assets from being distributed in accordance with the deceased individual’s wishes.
However, options are available to help avoid probate, and your estate planning attorney should go over them with you in detail.
Discuss options for planning for long-term care
Many LGBT individuals and their families may be especially anxious about what will happen if they need long-term care in the form of a home health aide or a nursing home. Discuss this anxiety and all of your options with your attorney, so they can identify strategies that will help put you in the best position to live out your life as you wish.
These 5 estate planning tips for LGBT individuals and their families are a good starting point. As always, the experienced team of attorneys at the Russo Law Group, P.C. can help. Contact us today.