Do You Have A Will And If So, Have You Named Your Partner?

  • HndsmKansan

    Posts: 16461

    Oct 06, 2007 7:52 PM GMT
    Estate issues can really be a problem for the gay & lesbian community. Some leave a Will (providing instructions for the distribution of their estate), some leave a revocable or irrevocable Trust for tax purposes. Some do nothing.....

    I recently heard about a long term couple (17 years) and one partner died. No Will.... and the decedent's family (who always "got along" with the surviving partner) moved in and "snapped" up the estate and the
    surviving partner was kicked out of his house (in which he and his partner had lived for 10 years).....

    Do you have legal documentation for the distribution of your estate if you should pass? Do you know of any horror stories of those who didn't??
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    Oct 06, 2007 10:25 PM GMT
    I don't have a partner at the moment, but I do have a will. When/if I go into another relationship, he will definitely be added.

    As for horror stories... Back in '84, one of my dearest friends, named Jon, died of AIDS related illness. He and his partner, Alan, had been together for over 10 years. They owned a small ranch, several cars, rental properties, a boat, a small plane, several horses, and a very successful business together. Everything was owned in both names and each left the entire estate to the other in their wills.

    When Jon came out to his family, they turned their backs on him. They told him they didn't want him around them until he "got over this phase". Years later, when he got sick, his family was notified. When they were told what was wrong, they said they didn't have a son named Jon and they didn't want to know anything about this person.

    Two weeks later, Jon died. His family didn't come to the funeral, the wake, or the house. They only showed up when it was time for the will to be read. They contested it in court, and since there was no legal marriage and they were the nearest blood relatives, they took everything. Alan was allowed to keep his own clothes and personal items, but the rest... including the joint bank accounts and stocks... went to the family.

  • CincyBOJ

    Posts: 310

    Oct 06, 2007 10:57 PM GMT
    Saw this same thing happen to a friend who lost his partner of 40 years. Lost everything.

    Saw a similar thing happen to a hetero friend who's husband died. They were only married 4-5 years, the family on his side didn't even talk to him. Yet, when this person died, the 'genetic' relatives seepped out of the woodwork and became hungry, "what do I get? where's this and that?"

    My partner has a will. Ineed to get on the ball and draw one up too.

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    Oct 06, 2007 11:24 PM GMT
    Let me preface this comment by stating that I am not an attorney, but I am a law student currently taking a class in estates and trusts.

    This topic brings to mind a case I recently read. A gay man had a will in which he left most of his property to his partner. His family didn't approve of their relationship, and after the man's death they contested the will on the grounds that the will was a result of his partner's "undue influence" over him. The case went to trial and the jury returned a verdict for the family. The partner appealed the decision and the appellate court affirmed it, so the will was invalidated.

    According to my professor, decisions in these cases vary depending on the state you live in, but no matter where you live there are ways to reduce the risk of this happening.

    Bottom line -- when making your estate plan (and yes, you should have one) be sure to consult with a QUALIFIED estate planning attorney in your state!
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    Oct 06, 2007 11:57 PM GMT
    WOW... reading some of the stories in here really pisses me off. A court and my family can decide what my actual dying wishes were? I'd rather see my shit in flames than for some members of my family to get it after I die. LOL, I wonder if I could put a clause in my will that if anyone contested my will all of my possessions would be burned and my money would go to charity... LOL!
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    Oct 06, 2007 11:58 PM GMT
    I am an attorney who has practiced in the fields of Estate Planning, Wills Trusts, Estate & Trust Administration for 36 years in Florida. I cannot give specific advice to individuals, nor can I advise on the laws of states other than Florida. But, I can tell you, that in this day and age there is no excuse for partners not to protect each other...and don't be cheap by trying to figure out how to do it on your the money to an Estate Planning attorney and get it done right. Don't go to a web site, don't go to an attorney who does criminal work, divorce work, civil litigation or other field of law...go to an Estate Planning attorney. We don't have enough room on this forum for me to tell you all of the horror stories I have experienced (as an advocate) that could have been avoided. If you have some generic questions or Florida specific questions, I will be glad to answer them.
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    Oct 07, 2007 12:13 AM GMT
    I read an article somewhere in the MidWest a couple of gay men who live together for years and raising one of the guys son. When his partner die of cancer, his blood relative ( a cousin I think) sue the estate. Because the will lack one witness, the cousin are entitle to all the properties and the ranch , that they have own and worked on together for years. To add insult the cousin sue the surviving partner for backpaid for the rent he owe while living on the ranch.
  • Alan95823

    Posts: 306

    Oct 07, 2007 7:12 AM GMT
    I'm single, and don't have a large estate, and am in relatively good health, but I have a will and a medical power of attorney, with 3 alternate folks just in case it's needed.

    When/if I have a partner, they'll get added eventually, if they stick around long enough.
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    Oct 07, 2007 11:06 AM GMT
    Living in California with my Registered Domestic Partner, my situation is probably too different now to be applicable to most of you.

    But before that status existed I had a partner, and our attorney did a lot of work in this area. The will at that time was something he called a "Pour-Over Will" the sole function of which was to move any assets into a pre-existing trust (funded with a dollar).

    Once in the trust, assuming it is set up correctly, distribution of assets is not subject to the inspection of outside parties. - At least, that was my understanding at the time.

    ...I'm not an attorney, etc. etc. - go see a good one - and one that has EXPERIENCE in the situation, even if you have to travel a distance to get to them.

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    Oct 07, 2007 11:58 AM GMT
    I keep meaning to organise this. My partner's family are Jehovah's Witnesses, and they don't approve of me (obviously), so I can see them feeling justified in stripping me of all my hard-earned jewellery.
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    Oct 07, 2007 3:32 PM GMT
    I, too, am an attoney specializing in trusts and estates law. I have advised many same-sex couples on estate planning issues which are unique to their situations.

    A will is only one issue. There are specific issues to be addressed in the event one partner becomes incapacitated. A properly structured power of attorney for financial decisions and a health care proxy allowing the partner visitation are essential.

    Seek the advice of a trust and estate attorney and ask whether he or she has done planning for same-sex couples.
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    Oct 07, 2007 4:12 PM GMT
    And, of course, everyone, gay, str8, single, or coupled, should have a Living Will, unless you want some superstitious, snake-handling Bible-thumper in Congress trying to keep your brain-dead body connected to a feeding tube or respirator.
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    Oct 13, 2007 9:59 PM GMT
    I have put a living will, and will in place with my partner of 10 years. We broke up a few years ago and I have left it with him as the benifactor. I will change this if I get into another serious relationship. I think it is important to have this stuff in place. We have the Do Not Resuscitate orders in place as well.

    My 2 cents. We went as far as power of attorney as well...

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    Oct 13, 2007 11:56 PM GMT
    My experience with POA's and Living Wills (in the State of California) has been mixed. In the case of my mother, we (mom and I) had an Power-of-Attorney for financial matters and for health descisions drawn up by an attorney. Some years later, when mom's health deteoriated to the point where it became time to exercise the financial Power-of-Attorney, I was told by bank managers where she had accounts that they would not recognize that Power-of-Attorney, but rather only a POA that had been executed at their bank, or one of it's branches. If I insisted in using the POA drawn up by the attorney, they said that they would contest the POA in court and that I would be obligated to demonstrate to the court that she was incompetent.

    To avoid the time, trouble, and expense involved in moving this process through the legal system, one day when mom was especially coherent I drove her around to each of those banks, filled out their POA form (on a 5x7 card), and had mom sign it with a teller as a witness. In each case, they then readily accepted it. The only problem encountered in doing this was that the process required that mom sign the POA card in two places. Getting two legible and "identical" signatures was a major problem for mom. Every time she failed to accomplish this, the teller would draft another copy of the POA form and mom would try again. By about the 6th or 7th attempt at one bank, the teller finally said that the signatures were "OK" -- even though the pair didn't (to my eye) compare with each other any better than some of the previous. So if you live in California, I would suggest that you check to see if this is still the case (i.e. bank-executed financial POA "required"), and if so, fill out a POA for each financial institution where the person has an account.

    In the case of a Living Will, my father specified that "extraordinary efforts" should not be used to keep him alive. There came a time when dad ended up in the hospital with a condition which would likely lead to his death in the absence of a particular procedure, and the outcome was uncertain if the procedure was carried out. The doctor in charge of his care asked me which route he should take. I asked him if the procedure involved extraordinary efforts and he said that it did. Next I contacted dad's regular doctor and asked if he considered it to be an extraordinary procedure. In his opinion, it wasn't. So now I had two conflicting opinions and had to make a decision on short notice. Which I did--but, even now, more than two decades later, I'm still not certain if it was the correct one.