By Advocate.com Editors
Originally published on Advocate.com September 03 2013 4:00 AM ET
Anticipation around the Supreme Court's recent ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act has spurred LGBT couples to take a serious look at their financial planning needs. Even with the Court's decision, a majority of states still have either limited or no recognition of same-sex marriages. This leads to a "patchwork" approach to equality, where each state can determine the rights of LGBT couples under that state's laws. It also raises more questions and requires more guidance.
Wells Fargo believes it's paramount for ALL LGBT couples to have a team of professionals in place to help them sort through the laws as they currently are, as well as what they may look like in the future. We recommend that you have relationships with various professionals including a Certified Financial Planner (CFP), an Accredited Domestic Partnership Advisor (ADPA), an Estate Planning Attorney, and a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). These are people with specific experience who are well-versed in the current set of challenges, along with planning techniques available to help tackle some complexities of existing laws.
Here are some important areas to consider if you are beginning this process. This is not an exhaustive list — it is a starting point:
Find the Right Advisor: seek out advisors, attorneys and other professionals who fully understand the unique planning needs of LGBT couples.
Healthcare Decisions: consider executing a healthcare proxy and a directive to physicians or a living will to designate an agent (e.g. your partner) to make medical decisions on your behalf and to outline your specific wishes with regard to critical end-of-life decisions.
Execute a Will: be specific in making your wishes known. Lacking a will, the identity of your heirs is determined by the law, not by you. A will and/or trust specifying your intentions can help transfer your assets to your partner if that is your choice.
Create Investment and Estate Plans Together: you and your partner should discuss financial values, priorities and goals. A plan can help with long-term financial goals, determining how to save for major purchases, and laying out your paths to retirement.
Consider a Durable Power of Attorney: a power of attorney provides one person the financial authority to act and sign on behalf of another, and therefore can be used to authorize your partner to make financial or business decisions for you if you become incapacitated.
This only scratches the surface, it's critical for LGBT couples to think through the complexities of financial planning in the midst of an evolving legal framework. Continue to educate yourselves, have important conversations with each other, and surround yourselves with professionals to help guide you through these fast-changing times.
Wells Fargo & Company and its affiliates do not provide legal advice. Please consult your legal advisors to determine how this information may apply to your own situation. Whether any planned tax result is realized by you depends on the specific facts of your own situation at the time your taxes are prepared.