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Same-sex couples have unique estate planning needs

As same-sex marriage comes before the U.S. Supreme Court, many Texas residents are watching to see if the highest court in the land will rule that these unions must be recognized throughout the nation. That said, same-sex marriage is and will continue to be a topic of political debate for many years to come, and the legal challenges against the issue will continue to mount. This leaves many same-sex couples in a precarious legal situation, especially when it comes to matters of estate planning.

The best way to ensure that one's partner is able to properly inherit is to create a comprehensive estate plan that puts those wishes into a series of legal documents. The first step is a will, in which an individual can outline which assets should pass to which individuals. It is also important to check the beneficiary designations on banking, investment or retirement accounts to be sure that they reflect one's intended beneficiary. In the event of the account holder's death, the assets held within these accounts will pass to the named beneficiary, no matter what is stated within a will.

Another estate planning consideration that affects same-sex couples involves power of attorney documents. An individual can designate a person to handle all financial or medical decisions in the event of an incapacitating illness or injury. For gay couples, this can be a critical matter, as medical professionals will turn to a patient's family for consent in an emergency. Without having the proper documents in place, a great deal of tension and strife can take place during what is already a challenging time.

Same-sex couples should consider their unique needs when structuring an estate planning strategy. As the courts continue to examine the legality of these unions, there are many families in Texas and across the nation who are left in a difficult legal position. With the right degree of attention and planning, couples can ensure that their wishes are carried out in the event of death or incapacitation.

Source: Forbes, "Estate Planning Advice For LGBT Couples", Holly Hanson, June 10, 2015

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