No one wants to think about the worst, and yet, it’s important to be prepared for anything. Estate Planning is an important process for anyone, regardless of their assets or debts. You do not need to have millions in savings to want to sign estate planning documents. In fact, for the LGBTQ community, there is additional urgency to consulting with an estate planning lawyer – especially when LGBTQ rights are under attack nationwide. Preparation is key when thinking of the future.
A Health Care Proxy, to start, is a valuable document that is even offered at some doctor’s offices prior to surgery. This document names someone trusted to make your healthcare decisions after you are incapacitated. This individual can sign off on life-saving surgeries on your behalf, make decisions about health care if you are unconscious, and be present in hospital rooms even if they are not a family member. For the LGBTQ community, this can be vital. Many hospitals will refuse entry to unrelated individuals. Having a Health Care Proxy ensures they can visit you during care. For the transgender community, this can prevent someone stopping gender affirming care on your behalf.
In a few ways, a Durable Power of Attorney is similar to a HCP. A Power of Attorney you name in this document can make legal decisions on your behalf. This includes but is not limited to signing documents, paying bills, retaining counsel, and making purchases under your name. Similar to a Health Care Proxy, having a Power of Attorney named can prevent unwanted parties from maintaining court-appointed legal control over you and making decisions you disagree with. In both documents, it’s worthwhile to have a backup party named – this can even be the attorney preparing your documents.
When you sign a Last Will, you name someone to be the Personal Representative, or Executor, of your will – AKA, someone to carry out your wishes. This mainly includes disposition of your assets – where your money and belongings go to. Without a Will in place, your assets would go to your parents or other nearest living blood relatives Additionally, having a Will signed helps prevent needless, tedious, and expensive litigation over your assets. For LGBTQ individuals who have a rocky relationship with family, this document can ease the fear of belongings going places you don’t want.
Perhaps the most vital document for the transgender and non-binary community – and LGBTQ folks at large – is a Declaration as to Remains. This is a document that names a representative to carry out end-of-life instructions, similar to a Will. In a Declaration as to Remains, you can dictate any instructions you find important. For instance, you can request you only be buried or interred under a certain name or gender, using specific pronouns in obituaries or memorial services. A Representative can also prevent services from happening in homophobic or transphobic venues. If there are individuals you want invited or disinvited to services, a Representative can also arrange for it. This document can help individuals of any gender be remembered as they want and have their legacy respected.
If you have kids at the time of signing your estate planning documents, you will also want to sign an Emergency Guardianship Proxy, naming someone to take care of your kids in the event of an emergency. Most LGBTQ couples who conceive children with assisted technology, through surrogacy, or any other non-traditional manner also will need to go through the process of adopting their children. This is called a Confirmatory Adoption (AKA a Second Parent Adoption), and it will prevent unwanted parentage or custody issues from arising. Sadly, parentage laws in Massachusetts are severely outdated. Massachusetts is the only state that has not updated parentage laws in New England. Regardless, estate planning attorneys can help move this process along – and our experienced lawyers hold immense expertise in the Confirmatory Adoption process.
It can be scary to think of “the worst”, but our lawyers have experience making the process as relaxed as possible. We at DangerLaw want to make this process seamless so you can feel secure in thinking of your future. We also frequently offer discounts to our LGBTQ estate planning clients. If you want to start the process, have questions about estate planning, or simply want to discuss your options, give us a call at (617) 340-3231.