For years, California law refused to recognize the inheritance rights of same-sex couples, forcing entire families to make difficult decisions. It took decades of intense debate, but local legislators eventually modernized the Golden State’s probate code, extending certain privileges to domestic partners, irrespective of their sexual orientation. Now, with same-sex marriage legal across the country, many couples are taking their first tentative steps toward creating an estate plan and establishing a long-lasting legacy.
The Law Firm of Kavesh, Minor & Otis, Inc. has spent decades helping Californians of all backgrounds safeguard themselves—and their assets—from uncertainty. If you’re in a same-sex relationship, our experienced team of Los Angeles and Orange County estate planning lawyers can help you achieve unprecedented peace of mind.
Estate Planning Tips for Same-Sex California Couples
Same-sex couples have many of the same estate planning needs as their heterosexual counterparts. Everyone, for instance, needs essential estate planning protections such as:
However, even these important documents suffer from stringent limitations. A last will and testament, for example, cannot keep estate assets out of probate, nor can it shield heirs from public scrutiny.
While every couple’s estate plan takes on a unique character, most families need to speak to their estate planning lawyer about the following:
Ensuring the Continuity of Their Beneficiary Designations
Beneficiary designations are provided alongside many different types of accounts, including the following:
- Bank accounts
- Individual retirement accounts (IRAs)
- Life insurance policies
In most cases, beneficiary designations permit the relatively easy transfer of the primary account owner’s assets to a named heir or beneficiary. However, since beneficiary designations take precedence over wills in probate, they must be reviewed regularly.
Authorizing Powers of Attorney
A power of attorney is a legally-enforceable document that delegates certain authorities to a trusted agent, often a spouse, family member, or lawyer.
California recognizes several different powers of attorney, including the durable power of attorney and the health care power of attorney. Each of these powers ensures that, even in the event the principal is ever incapacitated, a trusted agent-in-fact can continue paying their bills and providing for their basic needs.
Establishing a Revocable Living Trust
A trust is a type of legal entity capable of receiving, possessing, and managing different assets. California law provides for the establishment of a number of different trusts, including:
- Revocable living trusts
- Irrevocable trusts
- Special needs trusts
A revocable living trust is a trust that is founded during the trustor’s lifetime. For as long as the trustor is alive, they retain exclusive rights of use and access to trust assets, which include financial accounts, a motor vehicle, or even a home. Upon the trustor’s death, a nominated successor trustee must administer the trust in accordance with its terms and conditions.
Since trusts are discrete legal entities, trust-owned assets are not typically subject to probate. They are, consequently, frequently employed by Californians striving to keep their possessions out of probate—a goal that can spare their family’s privacy while also expediting the disbursal of inheritances.