Marriage—and the rights and privileges it confers—is a hot topic in California right now, especially as pertains to gay marriage. But the truth is that anyone who pays taxes knows that marital status is always a hot topic, because when it comes to the state and federal government, marital status carries a lot of weight.
Marital status not only affects how you pay your taxes, it also affects your rights when it comes to insurance, privacy, pensions, and even probate. When you are married you can neglect to create a will and still be fairly confident that your property will automatically pass to your spouse and children when you die (although it may not happen in the way that you would like)—this is not necessarily the case for gay and unmarried couples. Similar discrepancies exist in emergency medical situations, in which married couples sometimes expect to automatically have informational access and visitation rights to their spouse; gay and unmarried couples do not have this same privilege. (Even for married spouses in California, informational access is not automatic without a valid HIPAA authorization.)
You see, when it comes to taxes and estate planning, if you haven’t created a plan of your own the state and federal government already have a plan in place for you; and in the absence of a traditional marriage license the law will often give priority to biological relatives rather than a same-sex partner. The good news is that you don’t have to accept the standard California plan. Our firm can help you create a few basic documents that will ensure that your wishes are followed, and that priority is given to the people you choose.
Signing an Advanced Health Care Directive and a HIPAA authorization will ensure that hospital and medical staff will recognize the right of your partner to have information about your status and well being, as well as the authority to make medical decisions for you if you are unable. Creating a Will or a Trust allows you to specify who will be the beneficiary of your property, as well as choose the executor or agent who will make financial decisions for you should something happen to you.
Ensuring that your wishes are followed is easy enough, but none of this happens automatically. Non-traditional couples must be diligent about their planning—together and as individuals. Our office can help you and your partner protect yourselves, each other, and your families.