As gay, lesbian, and other proponents of same-sex marriages celebrate the United States Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, millions of Americans will now be eligible for dramatically different legal rights upon the death or disability of a life partner than were previously possible. This is certainly true for those in the State of Michigan.
In fact, in the field of estate planning — including planning for not only what happens when someone dies but also when someone becomes incapacitated — the landscape in the LGBT community has just changed. Before, homosexual couples in states that did not recognize gay marriages (or possibly, like Michigan, could refuse to recognize them in the future) would not have been able to do the same estate planning as other married couples.
Before: No Equal Access to Inheritance, Spousal Support, Pensions and Other Benefits for Married Couples
The unequal treatment in the law meant no spousal rights of inheritance, no spousal support in the event of a death or divorce, no intestate inheritance rights, no legal priority to act as a guardian, conservator, or executor if a partner died or became incompetent, no protected pension rights, no dower rights to protect real estate, and much more.
In fact, LGBT couples were unable to create a joint marital trust. They had no guarantee of access to their loved one in the hospital, especially when traveling out of Michigan to many other states. They could never have been certain that, when naming a partner as a future decision maker under a living will, advanced directive, or power of attorney, that their choice would have been recognized — especially if challenged in court by “actual” family members. Wealthy couples would have potentially faced double inheritance taxes, along with being denied other tax savings that are available for married couples.
And what about the last act of love someone could do for a departed loved one — plan a funeral to honor and celebrate a lost life? The next-of-kin has that right. Before today, that may not have included same-sex spouses in Michigan.
Now: Equal Benefits for Married Gay Couples
Now married homosexual couples can sleep better at night. They can prepare wills, trusts, end-of-life documents, and other critical estate planning instruments just like any other married couple. Estate planning lawyers no longer have to explain to them, “Sorry, I have to treat you differently than my other clients.” They no longer have to be afraid about what could happen to a spouse or children if one of them were to get in an accident and a judge refused to recognize the marriage.
No one likes thinking about the inevitability of death, the consequences of aging, or the scary possibility of a disability. But now, gay and lesbian couples can face those issues head on, like everyone else, comforted by the knowledge that the laws of Michigan will give them equal rights as heterosexual couples.
Take Action: Update Your Estate Plan to Take Advantage of Equal Rights
If you are a member of the LGBT community, it is time to redo your estate planning to take advantage of this new reality. The experienced estate planning attorneys of Barron, Rosenberg, Mayoras & Mayoras, in Troy, Michigan, can help. Call now for a free consultation at 248-641-7070.