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New Jersey LGBT Estate Planning

Married Couples: Governor Chris Christie’s announcement on October 21, 2013 that he would not pursue an appeal of the New Jersey Superior Court decision in Garden State Equality v. Dow that civil unions did not satisfy the standard outlined in by U.S. Supreme Court in United States v. Windsor means that New Jersey now must permit civil marriages for same-sex couples. The result being that same-sex couples are now free to examine all the estate planning techniques described elsewhere in my website without worrying about a twist. Enjoy the freedom!

For more ideas, read my article, Estate Planning for Same-Sex Couples in New Jersey.

Unmarried: The same-sex marriage victory is impressive, but not everyone is married. Just because you can get married does not mean that you will take the plunge. If you choose to stay unmarried, estate planning is still important. Without it, you have no say in what happens at your death or incapacity.
Below are several estate planning concerns for unmarried members of the LGBT community:

If You Have No Will, You Have No Say: If you die without a will in New Jersey your assets are divided up under the New Jersey intestacy rules. If you have a significant other, they will receive nothing under the New Jersey rules. If you are an unmarried LGBT person in New Jersey, you are free to leave your assets to whomever you wish through a will, so make sure your things end up with the people or person you want, not whomever the state rules dictate.

Complete a Living Will/Health Care Power of Attorney: If you become ill and cannot communicate with your doctor, whom do you trust to decide what treatment you receive, select the best doctor to treat you illness and, if necessary, authorize the doctor to stop giving you medical care? Without a living will or health care power of attorney, the person who will step in for you will be determined by the hospital or, if necessary, the court. If you have an LGBT significant other whom you trust to make these decisions, you can name him or her your Surrogate, removing the guesswork.

Avoiding Funeral Conflicts: In your will, you have the power to name the person or persons who control the details of your funeral. Such details include planning the memorial services and selecting the location of your burial. If you fail to nominate a person, the responsibility falls to your relatives. If you are in a long-standing LGBT relationship you may wish your significant other to handle these details, while family members might try to exclude your significant other. Avoid potential conflicts by appointing in your will the right person or persons to hold this responsibility.

Tax Planning: If you plan to leave your LGBT significant other an inheritance, consulting with an estate planning attorney might result in significant tax savings. For example, New Jersey has both an Estate Tax and an Inheritance Tax. Without planning, an inheritance to your LGBT significant other may result in paying both of these taxes. A little planning might result in huge tax savings.

Trusts to Protect Your Significant Other: If at your death you leave assets outright to your LGBT partner, those assets are available to his or her creditors, future spouses and will be subject to additional taxes at your partner’s death. Instead, your estate planning attorney can craft a protective trust to hold the asset for your partner sheltered from creditors, future spouses and which will help avoid future inheritance taxes. There are many types of trusts, and your estate planning attorney can help determine which best fits your situation.

Guardianship for Minor Children: If only one member of a long term LGBT relationship has custody of a child and the desire is that if the custodial parent dies, the other partner will serve as the child’s guardian, this intent needs to be documented in a will. The custodial parent needs documentation clearly defining the surviving partner’s nomination and either in the will or in a separate writing the reasons for the nomination and why the partner is the best choice.

Please contact Klenk Law for a free consultation for any LGBT Estate Planning needs in New Jersey.

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