For many, many years, LGBT couples have faced discrimination under the law. As a result, estate planning for LGBT couples has been a very important way to ensure that their families enjoy the same protections as any other couple. In the past, the job of the North Carolina LGBT estate planning lawyer has been a difficult one, but since the Supreme Court’s decision regarding nationwide LGBT marriage, estate planning has become easier. LGBT estate planning attorneys are still very much necessary to ensure that wills, trusts, and other such documents are properly prepared. An LGBT estate planning attorney will ensure that not only are your documents prepared correctly, but that you prepare the correct sort of estate planning documents and take all the proper steps.
While the laws associated with LGBT estate planning have changed, there are still issues unique to gay and lesbian couples to make sure that their children and partners remain protected and taken care of not only today, but in the future. LGBT estate planning lawyers will work to make sure your estate planning efforts work within the existing laws in order to ensure your wishes are carried out. Your LGBT estate planning attorney will help you to understand why estate planning is important, take you through the process of what is involved with LGBT estate planning in North Carolina, and can inform you as to exactly how LGBT estate planning lawyers help you to complete these tasks correctly and effectively.
Why is LGBT Estate Planning with a Lawyer in North Carolina Important?
Gay and lesbian couples enjoy much more equitable treatment under the law now that they are allowed to marry, and access to prenuptial agreements can help to determine what happens to property and assets in the event of one partner’s death – however, not everyone wishes to have a prenup, and not everyone chooses to get married. For those people, an LGBT estate planning attorney in North Carolina can help give your partner the legal authority to act on your behalf, including accessing medical information, financial information, and other essential activities in the event that you are incapacitated. It is also beneficial to create a plan for asset transfer, which can help reduce the tax liability associated with asset transfer, and will protect your partner’s right to the property you share.
Whether you are married or not, working with an LGBT estate planning lawyer is very important. This is especially true if you have children. When LGBT couples have children, at most one parent may be considered to be the natural parent. Adoption is something that many LGBT couples utilize to create legal relationships with the children of their partners, but this is not always pursued, and when this happens, certain steps must be taken to ensure that your children will be taken care of. This is another area where your LGBT estate planning lawyer can help.
LGBT estate planning lawyers can help tailor a plan to a couple and for their unique family situation. Some of the most common components of an estate plan include:
- The creation of wills and trusts.
- The creation of a power of attorney.
- Development of a comprehensive plan for the guardianship and inheritance of minor children.
The Importance of Making a Will with an LGBT Estate Planning Attorney in North Carolina
Your LGBT estate planning lawyer will help you to determine the proper components of your plan. The first, and most commonly included, estate planning document is the will. A will is the core of any estate plan, and it is the first thing your LGBT estate planning attorney will want to work on. When properly prepared, your will is a simple and powerful document, relatively inexpensive to have prepared, which will determine who inherits your assets in the event of your death, in addition to naming guardians for your children, naming adults to manage inheritance funds for minor children, and, crucially, naming an executor of your estate to ensure that your wishes are carried out.
A will can also be used to name caretakers for your pets, to determine how your taxes should be paid, to make donations to organizations you wish to support, and how debts should be paid.
If you do not have a will, then in the event of your death, your family will be left to determine what should be done with your estate. This is a stressful situation for any couple, but it can be especially true for LGBT couples, especially if the couple is not married. In the absence of a will, your partner may be left with no right to any of your property in the event of your death. This is another reason that it is very important to discuss these matters with an LGBT estate planning lawyer.
Avoiding Probate with the Help of North Carolina LGBT Estate Planning Lawyers
Probate is a process in which the court settles your estate. This can be a very long and expensive process, and it is rarely one that is beneficial to those who inherit your estate. There are ways, with the help of LGBT estate planning attorneys, to avoid probate, and we recommend doing so if you can.
The question of avoiding probate, like many such questions, is complex for same-sex couples who are not married because they are not able to take advantage of the laws which can allow the property to pass directly to a spouse without probate.
Some of the ways LGBT estate planning lawyers help their clients to avoid probate is through the creation of living trusts, transfer-on-death accounts and deeds, and through joint ownership of property.
There are simplified probate procedures for estates which are smaller, so for those who do not have that much property, there is very little need to plan for probate. An LGBT estate planning lawyer can help you determine the best way forward for your own situation.
Financial Powers of Attorney and Your North Carolina LGBT Estate Planning Attorney
Financial power of attorney does what its name implies: it gives another person power to make decisions regarding your finances. This can be done in a limited way, for a specific purpose or for a certain period of time, or with a durable power of attorney in which you and your LGBT estate planning lawyer name someone to manage your finances entirely in the event that you are incapacitated or otherwise unable to take care of them yourself.
Tips on Estate Taxes from LGBT Estate Planning Attorneys in North Carolina
Most people do not need to worry about estate taxes – but if you have a large estate, and you want to ensure that your partner and other beneficiaries receive as much as possible, you can work with your LGBT estate planning lawyer to reduce your estate’s tax liability.
Only estates which are worth more than $5.45 million need to worry about paying estate taxes as of 2016. The recent tax bill which was signed into law increases this amount to $11.2 million for an individual or $22.4 million for couples and is set to sunset in 2025. So – in general, federal estate taxes aren’t something that most of us need to worry about, and North Carolina does not currently collect an estate tax at the state level. For more information on estate taxes and how they work, consult your LGBT estate planning lawyer.
Making Final Arrangements with the Help of an LGBT Estate Planning Lawyer
With the help of LGBT estate planning attorneys in North Carolina, you and your partner will be able to create a final arrangements document. In your final arrangements document, you will be able to outline your wishes regarding burial, cremation, embalming, caskets, urns, burial markers, funeral ceremonies, and how these arrangements should be paid.
Unlike a will or trust, a final arrangements document is not legally binding. However, it can be a great relief to relatives who survive your passing and will have to manage the details of your funerary arrangements. These are decisions that very few feel qualified to make, and by outlining your wishes in a final arrangements document, you will save your loved ones, relatives, and your partner the stress and turmoil of making these decisions themselves. Drawn up with the help of a qualified and experienced LGBT estate planning lawyer, you will be able to help your partner in particular, as often in LGBT relationships, relatives outside of the relationships can have strong opinions as to how someone should be laid to rest. This document can help your partner ensure that your wishes, and yours alone, are honored.
Consult with an LGBT Estate Planning Lawyer in North Carolina
If you are in a gay or lesbian relationship, whether married or not, and have not yet thought about how your assets and property would be handled in the event that you pass or are otherwise incapacitated, we urge you to contact an LGBT estate planning lawyer today. Everyone, regardless of age, should have a will, a living will, and several other basic estate planning documents, and this is especially true for LGBT couples to ensure that your partner is not left out in the cold when you are gone.