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Estate planning tips for same-sex couples

With several landmark cases set to go before the Supreme Court, the nation is poised for a change in the manner in which same-sex marriage is handled in every state. At the same time, debate on the matter continues to rage, and the battles surrounding the legitimacy of these unions remain at play. Until the matter is ultimately resolved, many same-sex couples in New Jersey are taking an overly cautious approach to their financial and estate planning needs.

One of the best ways to ensure that one's assets pass down in the manner of their choosing is to draft a comprehensive will. It is also a good idea to check the beneficiary designations on investment, retirement and banking accounts. The assets held within such vehicles will pass to the named beneficiary, regardless of the wording of a will.

Same-sex couples should also create power of attorney documents that empower each other to make medical or financial decisions on each other's behalf. In the event of an incapacitating illness or injury, being able to direct the course of a loved one's health care is important. Many same-sex families face difficulties when such a need arises, especially when there is disagreement between a partner and extended family as to how to proceed. Having these documents in place can make a difficult time somewhat easier to bear.

Same-sex couples in New Jersey should take an aggressive approach toward securing their rights, and in paving the way for a smooth transfer of wealth when the time comes. An estate planning attorney can sit down with a couple and review current and projected needs, to structure a plan that accomplishes the goals set forth by the couple. Regardless of how gay marriage changes in the coming years, these legal documents can ensure that a partner is empowered and taken care of, if and when the time comes.

Source: fa-mag.com, "Same-Sex Couples Need Financial, Estate Planning", Karen DeMasters, May 26, 2015

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