From a recent interview with several LGBTQ families and individuals in Long Beach, it was ascertained that LGBTQ families in the United States face unique challenges when dealing with estate planning and family legal matters, many of which result in systematic inequities when compared to non-LGBTQ families. While these challenges have slowly lessened over time with the increased inclusivity of LGBTQ individuals in society, many barriers still exist for these families in all aspects of society, including managing their wealth and ensuring that it reaches the next generation.
An estate plan, according to Investopedia, is the result of the “preparation of tasks that serve to manage an individual’s asset base in the event of their incapacitation or death.” Investopedia classifies estate planning as being made up of a number of tasks that aim to manage an individual’s assets and liabilities upon death or incapacitation. Such assets include physical items such as houses, cars, paintings, and electronics, but they also include intangible assets such as digital assets, stocks, life insurance, and pensions. Liabilities can arise from debts that are owed by the individual at the time of death, often related to some of the assets they own. The tasks that estate plans accomplish can include: limiting estate taxes through trust accounts, establishing living dependents and guardians, naming beneficiaries and executors (who oversee the estate), preparing for the funeral and final expenses, and nominating a power of attorney.
The LGBTQ community should have equal access and opportunities for estate planning, but at the present time, many constraints exist that prohibit them from taking advantage of estate plans. In many areas relating to law and finance, LGBTQ Americans are not treated equally. It is important to first determine whether LGBTQ people are treated equally with benefits—which typically come from employers—and ensure that they can be placed in an estate plan. Same-sex marriages and partnerships are often not honored in the way that traditional marriages and partnerships are and this can result in certain complications when setting up an estate plan. Experts advise discussing assets and estate plans with a reputable attorney who can guide families through setting up a plan that respects all wealth and assets and ensures they are passed down to future generations of beneficiaries.
It is important for LGBTQ Americans to manage how assets are transferred upon death. Many beneficiaries may go through probate even with an estate plan. In the state of California, probate is a long, public process that can cost additional money and time. Probate is defined by Investopedia as the “legal process in which a will is reviewed to determine whether it is valid and authentic.” This process of verification is the one that can hurt the beneficiaries of many Californian LGBTQ couples’ estates. Because of this, it is important to look at different titling options so that only some assets go through probate. California is notorious for having extremely high legal fees related to probate, so it would be wise to limit the number of instances that beneficiaries would have to deal with this process.
While the LGBTQ community still faces many legal and financial roadblocks in their pursuit of happiness, many indications point to increased optimism and acceptance of LGBTQ individuals in society. Every June, thousands of people flood the streets of major American cities to join Pride parades, which aim to be positive and fun events that showcase LGBTQ pride and inclusivity, as well as fight for the rights of LGBTQ individuals. People across the country, gay and straight, have joined the fight for equality, whether through attending Pride parades in Los Angeles or allying themselves with LGBTQ communities across the country.
The Velasco Law Group welcomes all LGBTQ individuals at families. Our offices are in Long Beach, Downey, and Irvine. Make an appointment with us, the initial consultation is complimentary.