There have been periodic flurries of news about states such as New York deciding to allow for marriages between same-sex couples over the last few years. At the present time New York joins Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Iowa, Connecticut, and the District of Columbia as places in the United States that are issuing marriage licenses to gay couples.
So for the time being, individuals who take advantage of this opportunity have the same legal rights as heterosexual married couples. Thus, due to the rules of intestacy succession, community property would go to the surviving spouse if no estate planning documents existed at the time of the death of one of the partners in the marriage.
Similarly, the healthy partner would be the person who would make medical decisions in behalf of the other partner should this individual become incapacitated and unable to communicate if no advance directives had been executed.
However, as we have seen with the state of California, there always seems to be resistance from some quarters with regard to same-sex unions and legal challenges tend to arise. So even if you are legally married at some point in time there is no guarantee that the union will be recognized for the rest of your life.
This is why it is so important for same-sex couples to have the appropriate estate planning documents in place that express their true wishes. It is vital for those who are legally married because of the possibility of existing laws being overturned, and it is even more important for those who are residing in states where same-sex unions are not recognized and as a result are not legally married.
Of course many people feel strongly about the legitimacy of their relationships and would very much like to see the society recognize them. However, the good news is that you can assert your wishes in a legally binding manner, and if you would like to do so simply arrange for a consultation with an experienced, licensed estate planning attorney.
Mr. Kraft assists clients primarily in the areas of estate planning and administration, Medicaid planning, federal and state taxation, real estate and corporate law, bringing the added perspective of an accounting background to his work.