Love and legacy for same-sex couples

If you're in a same-sex relationship, here's what you need to know about estate planning

Key takeaways

  • With same sex-marriage now constitutionally allowed across the US, you may want to determine if a partner from a past relationship could still have beneficiary rights and update your estate plan as necessary.
  • Discuss with your spouse and your advisor who will execute your will and who has power of attorney.
  • If you have children, it's a good idea to speak with your lawyer to help ensure you and your spouse are recognized as the legal parents and to set your kids up as the beneficiaries of your estate.

Estate planning for same-sex couples

Estate planning is always a smart idea, whether you’re single or in a relationship. A solid estate plan can help ensure your health and financial wishes get followed. But for same-sex couples, estate planning becomes even more critical due to the unique concerns and situations they may face.

As someone in a same-sex couple, how can you benefit from estate planning and protect yourself and your beneficiaries for the long term? Consider the factors below and connect with your UBS Financial Advisor to get a clearer sense of next steps for you and your loved ones. 

Double check your state laws

In 2015, the Supreme Court delivered a 5-4 ruling in favor of the plaintiff in the historic Obergefell v. Hodges case.In that case, the plaintiff, Jim Obergefell, sued to have his Maryland marriage recognized in Ohio and to be listed as the surviving spouse on his husband’s death certificate after he passed away. The outcome of the high court’s decision meant same-sex marriage was constitutionally allowed across the United States.

While this was great news for many, Emily Brunner, Senior Wealth Strategist, UBS Advanced Planning Group, notes that it’s important to understand how the changing law impacted different people in different states. For example, in the state of Washington, the change meant that many domestic partnerships were converted to marriages.2 In a situation like this, some people were classified as married without realizing it.

This matters when it comes to considerations like who your beneficiaries are. “Spouses have rights under beneficiary designations,” Brunner points out. Of course, that includes your current spouse. But, for some, like those in Washington state, under the changed laws a partner from a past relationship could also have beneficiary rights. That might come as an unexpected shock to many. So it’s a good idea to revisit your past and current relationships to determine their status under current state laws—and make any necessary updates to your estate plan.

Another area where state laws matter for many LGBTQ couples is discrimination ordinances. For instance, same-sex couples may face obstacles when it comes to retirement home discrimination. Currently, only 21 states have laws in place that specifically prohibit discrimination against members of the LBGTQ community.3

Work with your advisors to run through different scenarios that help you consider the potential realities of discrimination and how they might affect the decisions you and your partner make when planning your estate.

Cover the essentials

Start by setting up your will. Listing your beneficiaries is important, but think beyond that and discuss with your spouse and your advisor who will execute your will and who has power of attorney—the person you designate to have legal authority to act on your behalf while you’re alive. Doing so will help to ensure that your final wishes are carried out how you want.

Brunner notes that healthcare proxies and directives—documents that list who can make healthcare decisions for you in the event you cannot—are also particularly important for same-sex couples. The same goes for insurance: You want to ensure your spouse has life insurance, health, and long- and short-term disability insurance.

Plan for your kids

If you have children, either biologically or through adoption, it will be essential to address their future well-being in your estate plan. “Each spouse needs to clarify their relationship to their children,” Brunner notes. Some states allow this by Second Parent Adoption, where both parents legally adopt the child, giving them the same rights as biological parents.4 If your state doesn’t have this option, then it’s a good idea to chat with your lawyer about creating a document that lists you or your spouse and the co-parent to your children and that also covers custody and visitation rights that can protect you for the long term. Doing so can help to ensure both of you are recognized as the legal parents of your children and to set them up as the beneficiaries of your estate.

When it comes to planning your estate, your advisor can help you look at the big picture and design a strategy that helps protect your loved ones for years to come.

Connect with your UBS Financial Advisor

To discuss how you can enjoy the benefits of your success while providing for others in the future.