Having or adopting a child changes everything. Those words really hit home when same-sex couples seek adoption. With state laws varying wildly on the matter and federal laws as yet unchanged, the laws and rules relating to same-sex adoption are far from settled.
In the meantime, same-sex couples need to define their “families” based upon the laws as they are. The Wall Street Journal recently provided some insight in an article titled “For Same-Sex Couples, the Finances Get Even More Complicated.” Essentially, fundamental financial and estate planning is not optional for same-sex couples. While the law provide many protections for traditional married couples who adopt, the same cannot be said for same-sex couples.
According to the article, some 2 million to 2.8 million children are being reared in same-sex households. Now, more than ever, same-sex couples must ensure that their wills, trusts, powers of attorney and health care directives are ship-shape. In the context of adoption, this means making proper provision for the guardians of an adopted minor child, as well as making sure that both parents have drawn their estate plans to protect themselves, each other, and the child.
Many states do not allow same-sex couples to adopt jointly, resulting in only one of the "parents" being considered a legal parent under the law. If a couple does not prepare the necessary documents to ensure that the law will recognize their relationship when it comes to finances, guardianship, and inheritance, to name just a few things, the result could be disastrous. For example, if the non-legal parent is not named as the child's guardian in the legal parent's will and other estate documents, the non-legal parent may find he or she has no rights at all if something were to happen to the "legal" parent. On the flip side, if the non-legal parent dies without a will naming the child as an heir, the child will be left out in the cold in many states. The examples are many, so check out the article to read more.
Bottom line: same-sex couples seeking to adopt a child absolutely must make sure all of their financial and legal plans are in place. For many, this may mean a commitment to life insurance and a carefully-drafted estate plan. Because there are so many moving parts involved, obtaining the advice of counsel is essential.
For more information about estate planning for same-sex couples, or for answers to your other estate planning questions, contact us at Peak Legal Group.
Reference: The Wall Street Journal (February 24, 2013) “For Same-Sex Couples, the Finances Get Even More Complicated”