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Non-Traditional Family

Monday, August 05, 2013

Minnesota Gay Marriage and the Fall of DOMA: Should My Partner and I Get Married?

A Minneapolis Estate Planning Attorney Discusses Minnesota's New Law Allowing Gay Couples to Legally Married

Gay Couples Can Legally Marry in Minnesota

On August 1 Minnesota will become the thirtheenth state to legally recognize same-sex marriages.  Gay couples who decide to tie knot here will gain a variety of financial benefits and legal rights.

Some of the changes will be significant. Couples who marry and live in Minnesota will be able to file their state tax returns jointly. Couples who decide to marry will also be first in line to inherit their spouses’ assets, even in the absence of a will. They’ll gain an array of smaller benefits as well, down to the ability to jointly apply for a fishing license.

The Supreme Court Declares DOMA Unconstitutional

Further, the Supreme Court held that the section of the Defense of Marriage Act ("DOMA') withholding federal benefits from legally married same-sex couples was unconstitutional.  What does that mean?

This means that same-sex couple who are able to legally marry may not be denied the federal benefits provided to married heterosexual couples.

If you are thinking about getting married in Minnesota, or in one of the other jurisdictions in which gay marriage is legal, you need to think about how your new status as a married couple may affect your family with regard to both obligations and benefits.  Further, if you are already legally married in another jurisdiction, that marriage will automatically be recognized here in Minnesota. In other words, if you got married in Canada but live here, that marriage became legally valid in Minnesota at 12:01am on August 1, 2013.

I have a client who was legally married in Canada a few years ago and she said to me, "So, basically I just have to wake up on August 1 and we are legally married, right?"

I think that's a great way to phrase it.

But what does it mean

Many clients have called me to ask about how getting married may affect their estate plans - or other issues related to their day-to-day lives. This is, for our community, unchartered territory and so many people are filled with questions. These new laws affect, in part, the following things:

  • Responsibility for financial support for a spouse
  • Responsibility for decisions relating to medical care and treatment
  • Priority for appointment as conservator, guardian, or personal representative for a spouse
  • Inheritance rights upon the death of a spouse
  • The ability to designate a spouse automatically as a beneficiary to retirement
  • The ability to insure a spouse through most insurance policies (except for those governed by federal law – see next question below)
  • Survivor benefits under workers compensation laws and state or local government pensions
  • Presumptions of parentage for children born during the marriage
  • Marriage also provides for an orderly process for dissolution, spousal maintenance, parenting time, and other protections granted through the divorce process

If you have questions on these, or any other issues, related to the new gay marriage laws, feel free to contact Unique Estate Law to discuss them at your convenience.


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Estate Planning Lessons, Part 2: Marriage Is Not Enough - You Must Get a Financial Power of Attorney Now

This continues my series on lessons I learned in handling the estates of my parents who both passed away last year. This post will discuss reasons why you should plan things now - do not wait!

I am an estate planning attorney with the knowledge and experience to handle complex issues but found myself running around at the last minute to take care of things for my own father. It turns out that my father had never signed a financial power of attorney.  What does that mean? It means that his wife was unable to handle simple financial transactions on his behalf while he was in the hospital and unable to do things like go to the bank. But they're married you say. For many financial matters, even a spouse does not have the right to act on your behalf. For instance, a spouse may not deal with anything listed solely in your name. This generally includes such things as your retirmenet plan, stocks or bank accounts. 

So, on a Thursday afternoon I was in my office (instead of the hospital) drafting a power of attorney for him to sign so that his wife could take care of some financial matters he thought were crucial in his last few days of life. Then I ran it to the hospital and got it signed and notarized.

You could look at this and note that we were lucky as he was awake, competent and alert enough to know what he wanted done and still capable of signing the Power of Attorney - even one day later and that would not have been the case. Many people simply put it off unti it's too late and the family has to fight to get a conservatorship to be allowed to make decisions they know the loved one would have wanted.

Please plan now so no one is running around trying to get these things done during such a difficult time.


Friday, December 28, 2012

Unique Estate Law: 2012 Wrap Up for a Nontraditional Law Firm

An Estate Planning Attorney Provides a Personal Review of 2012

The state of the firm

For Unique Estate Law 2012 was a fantastic year. The firm beat projections and I was able to assist more clients than ever before. I had referrals from a wide range of sources and a constant stream of clients coming through my website. I’ve done well enough to start advertising on a local radio station and in a local magazine. I have met many wonderful people and have given them guidance and peace of mind when facing an uncertain future.

Two major losses

But, for Chris Tymchuck, it was the worst year of my life.

Why was it such a bad year personally? In November both my Dad and Mom died within a week of each other. They were 66 and 64 respectively so it hadn’t occurred to the family that they might be gone so soon. While my father had battled cancer for 11 years he was in no worse shape in the end than in prior battles. And my Mom had never been sick a day in her life.

Why am I writing about this?

Why do I share such personal information on a law firm website? Because, it is a cautionary tale of what happens in a blended family when little or no preparation is done.

I was recently sharing my story with two clients and they said, “I can’t believe this is happening to you who spend your time making sure that people like us are ok and covered. You have to share your story with people so they understand that this can, and does, happen.” And they’re right.

I write this blog to assist clients and colleagues with things to consider when drafting estate plans for all types of families – both traditional and non-traditional – and the blog has paid off for me. I feel that, in keeping with the spirit in which I write I must use the lessons of 2012 to further education clients and colleagues through this medium. In short, to give back as the blog has given me so much.

Is it relevant to Unique Estate Law?

Why is my story relevant to this site? Because part of the reason that I specialize in non-traditional families is because I grew up in one – or several – and know the complications that come with being raised with in a complex web of interrelated (and sometimes not) people.

My parents divorced and each remarried and had kids with a subsequent spouse. In addition, my Mom remarried a third time and became a stepparent herself. So, that means I have a stepdad, stepmom, 3 half-brothers, a half-sister, a step brother and a step sister. That, of course, doesn’t include the “traditional” family members such as aunts, uncles and still-living grandparents. There are a lot of people to factor into planning, mourning and administering for someone.

I’ve spent the last couple of months grieving and assisting my family with working through the health care decisions, then memorials, estates and other issues associated with facing the illness and then death of parent. I plan to spend the next few posts discussing some of the lessons I’ve learned by being on the other side – education to practice so to speak – as my hope is to assist others to avoid some of the pitfalls we now face.

I can’t say that anything good has really come out of the losses I suffered this year but I will say that it confirmed my choice of profession. First, because I found relief in returning to work and assisting my clients and second because I feel that I use my law degree in the best possible way – to assist others to prepare for, and perhaps face, the worst times in their lives. For that I am grateful.


Monday, November 26, 2012

The ‘Sandwich Generation’ – Taking Care of Your Kids While Taking Care of Your Parents

The ‘Sandwich Generation’ – Taking Care of Your Kids While Taking Care of Your Parents

“The sandwich generation” is the term given to adults who are raising children and simultaneously caring for elderly or infirm parents.  Your children are one piece of “bread,” your parents are the other piece of “bread,” and you are “sandwiched” into the middle.
Caring for parents at the same time as you care for your children, your spouse and your job is exhausting and will stretch every resource you have.  And what about caring for yourself? Not surprisingly, most sandwich generation caregivers let self-care fall to the bottom of the priorities list which may impair your ability to care for others.

Following are several tips for sandwich generation caregivers.

  • Hold an all-family meeting regarding your parents. Involve your parents, your parents’ siblings, and your own siblings in a detailed conversation about the present and future.  If you can, make joint decisions about issues like who can physically care for your parents, who can contribute financially and how much, and who should have legal authority over your parents’ finances and health care decisions if they become unable to make decisions for themselves.  Your parents need to share all their financial and health care information with you in order for the family to make informed decisions.  Once you have that information, you can make a long-term financial plan.
  • Hold another all-family meeting with your children and your parents.  If you are physically or financially taking care of your parents, talk about this honestly with your children.  Involve your parents in the conversation as well.  Talk – in an age-appropriate way – about the changes that your children will experience, both positive and challenging.
  • Prioritize privacy.  With multiple family members living under one roof, privacy – for children, parents, and grandparents – is a must.  If it is not be feasible for every family member to have his or her own room, then find other ways to give everyone some guaranteed privacy.  “The living room is just for Grandma and Grandpa after dinner.”  “Our teenage daughter gets the downstairs bathroom for as long as she needs in the mornings.”
  • Make family plans.  There are joys associated with having three generations under one roof.  Make the effort to get everyone together for outings and meals.  Perhaps each generation can choose an outing once a month.
  • Make a financial plan, and don’t forget yourself.  Are your children headed to college?  Are you hoping to move your parents into an assisted living facility?  How does your retirement fund look?  If you are caring for your parents, your financial plan will almost certainly have to be revised.  Don’t leave yourself and your spouse out of the equation.  Make sure to set aside some funds for your own retirement while saving for college and elder health care.
  • Revise your estate plan documents as necessary.  If you had named your parents guardians of your children in case of your death, you may need to find other guardians.  You may need to set up trusts for your parents as well as for your children.  If your parent was your power of attorney, you may have to designate a different person to act on your behalf.
  • Seek out and accept help.  Help for the elderly is well organized in the United States.  Here are a few governmental and nonprofit resources:
    • www.benefitscheckup.org – Hosted by the National Council on Aging, this website is a one-stop shop for determining which federal, state and local benefits your parents may qualify for
    • www.eldercare.gov – Sponsored by the U.S. Administration on Aging
    • www.caremanager.org  -- National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers
    • www.nadsa.org – National Adult Day Services Association

Monday, August 13, 2012

Estate Planning for Unmarried Couples

A Minneapolis Estate Planning Attorney Examines the Importance of Estate Planning for Unmarried Couples

Estate planning is important for everyone. We simply don’t know when something tragic could happen such as sudden death or an accident that could leave us incapacitated. With proper planning, families who are dealing with the unexpected experience fewer headaches and less expense associated with managing affairs after incapacity or administering an estate after death.

If a person fails to do any planning and becomes involved in a debilitating accident or passes away, each state has laws that govern who will inherit assets, become guardians of minor children, make medical decisions for an incapacitated person, dispose of a person’s remains, visit the person in the hospital, and more. In some states, the spouse and any children are given top priority for inheritance rights. In the case of incapacity, spouses are normally granted guardianship over incapacitated spouse, though this requires a lengthy and expensive guardianship proceeding.

In today’s world, increasing numbers of couples are choosing to spend their lives together but aren’t getting married, either because they aren’t allowed to under the laws of their state, such as in the case of gay and lesbian couples, or simply because they choose not to. However, most states don’t recognize unmarried partners as spouses. In order to be given legal rights that married couples receive automatically, unmarried couples need to do special planning in order to protect each other.

In general, unmarried individuals need three basic documents to ensure their rights are protected:

  1. A Will – A will tells who should inherit your property when you pass away, who you want your executor to be, and who will become guardians of any minor children. These issues are all especially important for unmarried individuals. In most states, an unmarried partner does not have inheritance rights, so any property owned by his or her deceased partner would go to other family members. Also, in the case of many gay and lesbian couples, the living partner is not necessarily the biological or adoptive parent of any minor children, which could lead to custody disputes in an already very difficult time.  Therefore, it’s critical to nominate guardians for minor children.
     
  2. A power of attorney – A power of attorney (for financial matters) dictates who is authorized to manage your financial affairs in the event you become incapacitated. Otherwise, it can be very difficult or impossible for the non-disabled partner to manage the disabled partner’s affairs without going through a lengthy guardianship or conservatorship proceeding.
     
  3. Advance healthcare directives – A power of attorney for healthcare, informs caregivers as to who is responsible for making healthcare decisions for someone in the event that a person cannot make them for himself, such as in the event of a serious accident or a condition like dementia. Another related document is a HIPAA waiver, which allows the persons named to discuss your care with a doctor BUT not to make decisions.

A fourth document to consider is the use of a revocable living trust.  A trust document is nothing more than a set of instructions you leave to instruct your trustee on how, when and to whom to distribute your assets.  There are numerous advantages to a trust that are especially appliable to unmarried couples:

  • Avoids probate
  • It's private unlike a will at probate
  • You can determine where any remaining assets may go at your partner's death
  • Avoids court intervention if you're incapacitated

Beyond these documents, it is also critical that you check your beneficiary designations to ensure that the proceeds of your life insurance, retirement accounds, CDs, moneymarket or bank accounts go to your loved one. While your partner may still be able to inherit even without those designations, it will take time and effort to prove to a court that he/she is entitled to the benefits.

Estate planning is undoubtedly more important for unmarried couples than those who are married, since there aren’t built-in protections in the law to protect them and their loved ones.  It’s imperative that unmarried couples establish proper planning to avoid undue hardship, expense and aggravation.

 

 


Monday, August 06, 2012

Gay Marriage and Inheritance Rights, Part 4: Discussion of Probate Court Ruling That Gay Spouse May Inherit

This series of posts examines the unique case brought before the Hennepin County Probate Court in which a same sex spouse sought inheritance rights over $250,000 worth of assets from his deceased spouse's estate. Recall that Mr. Morrison and Mr. Proehl were legally married during the brief window in California and later returned to Minnesota - a state that has a statue prohibiting the recognition of same-sex marriage - where Mr. Proehl died suddenly of a heart attack.  In question were approximately $250,000 worth of life insurance proceeds and in a solo bank account in which Mr. Morrison was not named a beneficiary.

After unsuccessfully fighting to have the insurance company and bank issue the money to him, Mr. Morrison filed suit in Hennepin County Probate Court arguing that he was entitled to Mr. Proehl's estate because they were legally married in California. In a unique - and surprising - decision, the court agreed and ordered the $250,000 paid to Mr. Morrison.

As noted in my prior post, I am thrilled with this outcome for Mr. Morrison but caution that it may also cause some unintended consequences. A few issues that come to mind.

What if you break up?

 I know many couples who traveled to a state (Iowa, Massachusetts or New York) or country (Canada) to get married in a jurisdiction in which same-sex marriage is legal and some of those couples are no longer together.  But, because the marriage is not valid in Minnesota and due to the residency requirements (of 6 months or more) in most states, the couples never divorced.  What happens if one member of that “broken relationship” dies? Will the “ex”, but still-legal-spouse-in-another-state, be able to inherit from the deceased?

Do you have to be "same-sex married" in a jurisdiction where it's legal?

Another question: Would this only work for couples who got legally married in another state?  My partner and I have been together for almost 7 years and we have a 5-year-old daughter together. and are registered domestic partners in Minneapolis.  If my partner dies without a will, am I currently entitled to the same inheritance rights as Mr. Morrison or do we need to travel to Iowa (actually, I would choose New York) to get married so it’s legal somewhere? And what if we go to Illinois and get a civil union? Does that count?

Will gay couples rely on this decision?

As an estate planning attorney in Minnesota - a state increasingly restrictive of the right of gay couples to marry - I worry that potential clients will hear about this and interpret it to mean that they don't need to properly plan for an emergency. I want to be sure to point out that the judge in this case clearly stated that this was "unlike any that has come before Minnesota's probate court." When I hear that language, I think that it's a "one-off" decisions and may not be repeated. Further, this is not a binding case as it's only at the district court level. Another thing to note is that Mr. Morrison did still have to spend time and money in court fighting for what should have - easily - been his. If Mr. Proehl had named Mr. Morrison as a beneficiary OR in a valid will, those $250,000 worth of assets would have been in Mr. Morrison's hands within a couple of months without legal intervention. Please don't rely on a court to save you, but call my firm and get a plan in place now! If you mention this blog post, I will waive my initial consultation fee because it's that important to me to help this community (and so I know someone reads this).

What if other heirs dispute the partner/spouse's inheritance rights?

What if other family members object to the surviving partner/spouse's inheritance? It doesn't appear there will be any opposition to the Proehl decision as it was clear that Mr. Proehl's surviving family members all believed that Mr. Morrision was his husband and therefore entitled to the proceeds. But, will the outcome be the same if someone is there to dispute it?

While the decision does raise further questions (as complex legal questions often do), let me be clear that I am thrilled for the LGBT community and applaud Referee Borer and Judge Quam for what is clearly the right choice in this situation.

 

 


Thursday, August 02, 2012

BREAKING: Gay Marriage and Inheritance Rights, Part 3: Court Rules That Gay Spouse CAN Inherit!

A Minneapolis Lawyer Discusses the Recent Hennepin County Probate Decision on Inheritance Rights for Same Sex Couples

As a lawyer who specializes in the field of non-traditional families, I have to admit that this is an outcome that I would never have predicted.

Two of my prior posts discussed the inheritance issue facing James Morrison of Hennepin County, Minnesota.  Briefly, Mr. Morrison legally married Thomas Proehl in California during the brief window in which same sex marriage was permitted in that state.  Upon their return to Minnesota Mr. Proehl died of a heart attack and Mr. Morrison subsequently learned that there was $250,000 in life insurance benefits and in a solo bank account for which Mr. Proehl had not named a beneficiary.  Further, Mr. Proehl did not have a will specifying where his estate should go in the event of his death.

After failing to make his case with the insurance and retirement companies, Mr. Morrison argued to the Hennepin County Probate Court that, because they were legally married in California, he was entitled to inherit the $250,000 from Mr. Proehl's estate.  In a surprising ruling yesterday, the Hennepin County Probate judge agreed and granted Mr. Morrison the right to inherit the $250,000.

Referee George Borer held that Minnesota’s Defense of Marriage Act (MN DOMA) does not deny a same-sex partner the right to inherit the other’s assets.  His opinion noted that the MN DOMA bill as initially drafted included language prohibiting “the benefits of marriage” to same-sex couples but that language was removed prior to passage into law. Referee Borer stated that the removal of “benefits of marriage” language appeared to be an “intentional legislative compromise that allowed the passage of this bill.”  Hennepin County Probate Judge Jay Quam signed off on the referee’s order stating that the Legislature’s rejection of the “benefits” language was not accidental and acknowledged that this case was “unlike any that has come before Minnesota’s probate court.”

The judge also noted that what made Mr. Proehl and Mr. Morrison different was “that they were a married, same-sex couple in a state where that status is legally unwelcome.”

This is a great outcome for Mr. Morrison and I hope he can put this all behind him now as I must have been emotionally wrenching to have this drag on for so long.

I certainly feel this is the right decision for this couple, but I fear it may lead to some unintended consequences.  I will discuss these possible issues in the next post in this series.

 

 


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Gay Marriage and Inheritance Rights in Minnesota, Part 2

A Minnesota Estate Planning Lawyer Discusses Issues Related to Estate Planning a Probate for Unmarried Couples

My prior post discussed the facts of the unique case of Thomas Proehl and James Morrison, a male couple who legally married California before returning to Minnesota.  Mr. Proehl died suddenly of a heart attack leaving a combined $250,000 in an insurance policy without a named beneficiary and a solo bank account.  So, what's the problem?  Well, who is entitled to receive that $250,000 in assets?

If there is no beneficiary stated on a life insurance policy (or retirement account) the institution holding the policy (or funds) will turn to the local probate court for help.  Institutions do not want to make these decisions so will hold the funds until a court tells them how to pay them out.  So, how does a court know what to do with these funds?  There are two ways: 1) check to see if the decedent left instructions (i.e. a will); and 2) look to the state law.

Is there a will?

The first step in the determining how to pay out Mr. Proehl's $250,000 was to see if he had a will.  As noted in prior posts, a will is set of instructions on how, and to whom, a decedent wants his/her probatable assets paid out.  If Mr. Proehl had drafted a legal will stating that all of his assets were to be paid to Mr. Morrison, a court would have ordered the insurance company and the University of Minnesota to immediately cut a check to Mr. Morrison.  Unfortunately, Mr. Proehl did not have a will so the court must now look to the second method of determining how to pay probatable assets.

What Does State Law Say?

If there is no will, the decedent is said to have died "intestate" (literally meaning "not testate").  For someone who died without a will, the probate court will turn to state law to guide it in determining how to pay assets.  In Minnesota, the state statute governing the payment of assets where there was no will is known as the law of intestate succession.  These statutes provide the court with very clear instruction on the "order of descent" (e.g. priority list) for any assets passing through probate.  At the simple level (the point of this post is not provide a lengthy explanation of intestacy succession) assets passing through intestacy are paid in the following order:

  1. To a legal spouse; then
  2. Any legal child(ren); then
  3. Living parent(s)
  4. To descendant of parent (i.e. sibling); and then
  5. To any living grandparent(s).

If there are more than one in any group (class) then the assets will be divided equally "at that level."

So, first up is the legal spouse and here we immediately have an issue.  Mr. Proehl and Mr. Morrison were legally married in California so shouldn't those assets go to Mr. Morrison as the surviving spouse?  That is exactly the issue Mr. Morrison brought before the Hennepin County Probate Court last month in which he filed a petition asking to be named hair of Mr. Proehl’s estate. We will see how this comes out but it has cost Mr. Morrison dearly in time and effort to fight for what is, indisputably to those who matter, his.

The good news is that you can prevent this from happening to you!  Check your beneficiary designations and get a will now! Work with an attorney who understands the unique challenges facing couples in nontraditional estate planning.


Thursday, June 07, 2012

Gay Marriage and Inheritance Rights in Minnesota, Part I

Twin Cities Estate Planning Attorney Discusses Inheritance for Unmarried Couples

UPDATE: August 2, 2012 - Then Hennepin County Probate Court has ruled that Mr. Morrison can inherit as the legal spouse of Mr. Proehl. See the full story here.

A Hennepin County Probate Court is set to rule on the issue of whether gay couples who are legally married in another state but reside, and die, in Minnesota may inherit from their same-sex spouse.  Because this is such a major case for my numerous unmarried clients, I will be drafting several blog posts on why it matters.  This first post deals mainly with the facts of the case.

Thomas Proehl and James Morrison, together for over 25 years, were legally married while living in California.  Upon deciding to return to Minnesota, they sold their California home and bought a new house here.  They jointly owned the Minnesota home and had a joint checking account to pay bills.  Unfortunately, the couple did not plan for the worst happening - and it did.

Sadly Mr. Proehl died of a heart attack at the age of 46 in 2011.  In settling Mr. Proehl's estate, Mr. Morrison learned that the $100,000 profit they received from the California home sale was put into an individual investment account solely in Mr. Proehl's name.  Further, Mr. Proehl had a life insurance policy through his job at the U but mistakenly forgot to name Mr. Morrison as the beneficiary of the policy.

Between the investment account and the insurance policy, there was $250,000 that had to go through probate to determine to whom it should be given.  As you may recall from prior posts, the Probate Court will look to a decedent's will to determine how to distribute these assets.  So, who gets the $250,000?  The legal battle that ensued over this will be covered in the next post...

 

 


Monday, October 10, 2011

UPDATE: Obama Offers Relief for Same-Sex Couples Who Need Medicaid Benefits

UPDATE:

I recently attended a conference with David Godfrey the Medical Assistance (Medicaid) Director for Minnesota.  I asked him if there were plans to implement the policy advocated by the HHS allowing the well partner of a gay couple the same ability to protect assets as married straight couples have under current law.  Specifically, under current law, in cases where an ill spouse receives Medical Assistance to pay for an assisted living facility, the well (community) spouse may remain in the couples' home.  Gay couples have no such protection as gay marriage is not allowed in Minnesota. 

Mr. Godfrey responded to my inquiry by stating that he is "in discussions with the Commissioner" on this topic and they would like to find a way to offer to gay couples some asset protection where one partner is on Medical Assistance and the other is well.  But, so far, they haven't made any progress and are unsure how to proceed with the issue given the current legislative session.

According to the Williams Institute, not one state has taken the HHS up on its offer to protect gay seniors by allowing a well partner to remain in the couple's home if the other one becomes ill and requires assistance. 

Once again the state of Minnesota will not take care of you and your loved ones in sickness or death, so you must take control to protect yourself and your family.

_________________

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), under White House direction, issued new guidelines to state directors of Medicaid programs regarding how Medicaid benefits may be administered for same-sex couples. The guidelines state, in part, that medicaid agencies are within their jurisdiction to help ensure same-sex partners can remain together in shared housing.

Medicaid care for long-term care is only available after an individual has run out of money to pay for his or her own care. In return for providing assistance, the state can take possession of the person’s house as a lien. But, federal law prohibits imposing this lien if beneficiaries are married to someone of the opposite-sex who’s still living in their home. The new guidance clarifies that states can offer this protection to the healthy partner of a Medicaid recipient in a same-sex relationship.

The new rules allow states to extend the same protection to remain in the home to a same-sex partner. While it doesn’t require state agencies to provide this relief – keep in mind that DOMA is still the law of the land -  it’s still a step forward in aiding more accepting states to grant relief to same-sex partners. Further, it shows that the Department of Health & Human Services continues to examine ways to offer more protections to same-sex couples while DOMA remains federal law. One step forward is better than none, right?


Monday, August 29, 2011

Judge Will Consider Motions to Unseal the Prop 8 Tapes Today

Gay marriage is obviously a hot topic for me, not only because of how it affects unique families and non-traditional families, but also because of the legal implications to lawyers who practice estate and family law. With “traditional”, aka “Federally supported”, marriages my job takes less time and due diligence to ensure that the families are protected when a loved one dies or is incapacitated.

Gay marriage at the state level actually makes things trickier because it is not Federally-recognized. In those states where gay marriage is legal, separate tax records must be kept and the same amount of paperwork is filed for estate planning because of how the IRS views same-sex and unique couples as it would be if there were no gay marriage in that state at all. Still, from a purely social perspective and no thoughts to probate laws, wills, succession planning, etc. I am highly interested in how cases like this will play out.

The American Foundation for Equal Rights has made a motion to have the the video proceedings of the Proposition 8 Trial made public. This is a PR move on the part of the American Foundation for Equal Rights because they believe that were the American public to see the arguments made against gay marriage, see the “ugliness” in some of the dialog that they would understand how divisive it can be to vote on someone else’s essential rights. I would hope that something like this could change hearts and minds, but I’m cynical. I’ll wait and see.

I will say, however, that I am glad to see that there is a momentum to the movement and that people are continuing to push hard for equal rights.

Until the day that we have a full-recognized legal marriages for gay and lesbian families, I will keep doing what I do every day to protect the rights of gay and lesbian families, single parent families, and other non-traditional families who are overlooked by current laws.


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From within Hennepin County Unique Estate Law represents estate planning and elder law clients throughout Minnesota, including Minneapolis, Edina, Bloomington, St. Louis Park, Minnetonka, Plymouth, Wayzata, Maple Grove, St. Paul, and Brooklyn Park. The Minnesota law firm of Unique Estate Law focuses on all aspects of estate planning, including specialized wills, trusts, powers of attorney and medical directives for married couples, young families, blended families, single parents, gay families and those going through a divorce. Unique Estate Law also handles probate administration, asset protection, Medical Assistance planning, elder law, business succession planning, adoptions and cabin planning.



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