In Part 1, we started the discussion of why it’s so important for LGBTQ+ families to invest in custom estate planning. While major strides for LGBTQ+ rights have been made in recent years, estate planning law is still written with hetero, cisgender couples in mind, which means that your wishes and your rights may not be respected when you die or if you become incapacitated without proper planning in place. In Part 2, I’m covering two more reasons why every LGBTQ+ family needs custom estate planning.
Most Traditional Lawyers Aren’t Well Equipped to Serve LGBTQ+ Families
Although same-gender and LGBTQ+ relationships are more publicly recognized now than ever, creating effective estate plans for LGBTQ+ clients is still new territory for many traditional lawyers.
Some lawyers simply lack experience serving LGBTQ+ families because these families didn’t have the same rights as cisgender couples until just eight years ago -- and while that’s nearly a decade, it’s only a fraction of most lawyers’ practicing careers. For traditional lawyers who are in their 30th year of practice, new developments in LGBTQ+ planning are still fairly foreign.
The same is true for many LGBTQ+ families. In addition to same-gender marriage being relatively new, many LGBTQ+ families haven’t pursued estate planning due to a lack of knowledge about its importance or its availability to them. After all, only 30% of American adults have an estate plan, (yikes!), and only a small portion of that 30% are in a LGBTQ+ relationship.
For lawyers who create cookie-cutter plans for their clients (which is more lawyers than you’d like to think), the amount of custom estate planning language necessary to make an effective plan for an LGBTQ+ family is more than many lawyers know how to do or want to do.
That leaves a shocking number of traditional attorneys who simply aren’t prepared or experienced enough to serve LGBTQ+ families in a way that creates effective plans and also honors their family and their legacy.
Sadly, some traditional lawyers don’t feel comfortable serving LGBTQ+ families and don’t even accept them as clients!
Because of this, it’s crucial to work with an attorney who isn’t just comfortable working with LGBTQ+ families, but is passionate about getting to know your family on a personal level and creating a plan that celebrates all that you’ve done and all that you hope for your family in the future.
Keep Your Kids with the Ones They Love
If you’re in an LGBTQ+ relationship, you know that family isn’t just about bloodlines -- it’s also about your chosen family and the bond and love you share for each other.
And if you have children, you know that ensuring their well-being and protection is of the utmost importance.
In the event that something happens to you, it's crucial to have a plan in place that addresses who will be your children’s legal guardian, and this is especially true if the children in your family aren’t biologically related to one of the parents, such as step-children or children born to same-sex parents who aren’t married.
Not only can these situations create some unique legal planning, but LGBTQ+ parents may also face resistance from family members who may not support children living with a biologically unrelated guardian or an LGBTQ+ guardian, whether you and your partner were married or not.
Similarly, if your family is resistant to certain lifestyle or parenting choices you have made -- such as gender fluidity in how you raise your child or the topics you discuss within your family -- it’s incredibly important to name guardians who align with your beliefs and who will honor your wishes for how you want your children to be raised.
Legal Guardians Are Even More Important for LGBTQ+ Families
To avoid potential disputes and ensure the continuity of care for your children, it’s essential to designate legal guardians for your children explicitly in your estate plan. By doing so, you can legally establish who you want to care for your children in your absence regardless of the guardian’s relationship to your children or their sexual orientation.
By documenting who you would want to raise your children clearly and legally, you help ensure that your children will always be raised by the people you choose and the people your children love.
Otherwise, you leave space for relatives who do not agree with your beliefs to try to take over the position of guardian and raise your children in a way you would not agree with -- possibly even keeping them away from the other parent figures in their life.
Choose a Lawyer Who Understands and Honors Your Unique Family
Finding a lawyer who truly understands your unique situation is crucial in making sure your loved ones are taken care of by people who love and respect them, regardless of biology or sexual orientation. You deserve a plan that celebrates your love, family, and future.
I understand the unique challenges that LGBTQ+ families face. That’s why I don’t practice law in the traditional way.
Instead, I put heart at the center of my practice -- making sure to truly get to know you, your loved ones, and your needs so you can not only protect your family and document your wishes but create a legacy and a story for your loved ones that they’ll cherish for years to come.
This article is a service of the Law Office of Keoni Souza, LLC, an estate planning law firm in Honolulu, Hawaii. We don’t just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That is why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session, during which you will get more financially organized than you have ever been before and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by contacting our office today to schedule a planning session and mention this article to find out how to get this $750 session at no charge.
Disclaimer: All information on this website is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice. You should contact an attorney trained to work with families on estate planning matters regarding your specific situation. Use of and access to this website or any of the email links contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship between the Law Office of Keoni Souza, LLC, and any users or any other party.