If you’re in a domestic partnership, you’ve built a family, and you should have a say in how that family is taken care of if anything happens to you. While everyone should document their wishes with an estate plan, it’s especially important for you because some state laws don’t take domestic partnership into account, and next of kin laws are more likely to deviate from who you would choose as your next of kin.
Before you start the estate planning process, make sure you get informed. Domestic partnership and estate planning laws vary state to state, so consider consulting with an attorney who understands your situation and wishes. With a smart estate plan, domestic partners can choose what care they want to receive in the hospital, who they want making decisions for them, who they’d like to receive their belongings, and more.
Here are some things to consider:
Domestic Partnership Agreement
A Domestic Partnership Agreement is the first document you and your partner should complete. You can lay out how you as a couple will share income, pay bills, what property is joint property (as opposed to individually owned), and more. It’s a foundational document that will give your estate plan solid ground to stand on.
Hospital Visitation Authorization
Before January 2011, this document was a necessity for domestic partners. But with President Obama mandating that all hospitals participating in Medicaid and Medicare allow patients to see whatever visitors they choose, it’s not as mandatory as it once was. Still, it’s never bad to get your Hospital Visitation Authorization in order. After all, if the hospital doesn’t participate in Medicaid or Medicare or if you’re somehow incapable of designating visitors while there, you’ll want legal paperwork that allows your partner to visit.
Durable Power of Attorney
If you become incapacitated or can’t make otherwise make intelligent choices, who makes those decisions for you? A doctor will do his or her best, but might not have the same values as you or your partner. This is why you need a Durable Power of Attorney. You can select an agent (such as your partner) to make your health care decisions if you are incapable of doing so.
Similar to a Durable Power of Attorney, a Living Will can specify what sort of care you want to receive if you’re incapacitated. It’s used to spell out your health care preferences and often contains provisions such as “do not resuscitate” instructions. These are choices you yourself are making, not ceding those decisions to anyone else, as you would be with a Power of Attorney.
Last Will and Testament
And of course, you’ll need a Will. Wills allow you to select who you want to receive your property, who will manage your estate, and more. Any property you don’t include in your Will is often divided by the state through intestacy and inheritance laws. That’s why having a Domestic Partnership Agreement and a detailed, specific Will is so important.
That sounds like a lot of paperwork, we know. But it’s not nearly as daunting as it seems. A good estate plan protects the ones you love from having to make hard decisions in an emotional time. Talk it over with your partner and choose what’s right for you. You’ll be happy you did.
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