Engaging in the estate planning process is a great way to ensure that your loved ones will be provided for. While the law recognizes the legal rights of married couples when it comes to probate and inheritance, gaining legal standing can be more difficult for same-sex couples.
If you live in a state where the law doesn't recognize your same-sex marriage, here are three things you can do to avoid having your estate go to court.
1. Prepare a living trust.
Since your partner won't have legal standing to lay claim to your estate if your state government doesn't recognize your marriage, creating a living trust prior to your passing can help you avoid potential inheritance problems. A living trust is a document that designates a living trustee to oversee your property while you are still living.
You can appoint a successor trustee, and this individual will inherit the right to administer the property covered by the living trust after your death. By naming your partner as the successor trustee, you can ensure that he or she will legally gain access to your assets without having to fight in a court of law.
2. Move your financial assets into a payable-on-death bank account.
If you have amassed significant financial holdings, you will likely want your partner to have access to this money in the event of your death. Keeping money out of probate is easy when you make the choice to store your financial assets in a payable-on-death bank account.
Payable-on-death accounts are designed to give your designated beneficiary complete access to your accounts after you pass, without involving probate courts. All you need to do to complete this simple estate planning step is fill out a form naming your partner as your designated beneficiary. Forms are provided by your banking institution, just ask a teller for assistance.
3. Establish joint ownership of major assets.
Real assets (like real estate, vehicles, or valuable artwork) should always be owned through joint tenancy if you and your partner want to avoid probate. When drafting the deed or title to any real assets you and your partner acquire, be sure that you are both listed as owners on the paperwork.
Having both your names on the paperwork will ensure that, upon your death, the asset will legally pass into the sole ownership of your partner. Probate court hearings are not required for jointly-owned assets, since the death of one owner immediately transfers all rights to the surviving owner.
Since the law doesn't favor the rights of same-sex couples when it comes to probate matters, it is important to engage in the proper estate planning steps to prevent issues after your death. Taking the time to create a living will, move financial assets to a payable-on-death bank account, and ensure that all real property is jointly owned you and your partner will be prepared to provide for one another after death without court interference. For more information, call a professional like George M Cappello, Lawyer.