LegalVault Blog

Friday, August 27, 2010

Estate Planning & Document Storage for Same-Sex Couples

In the weeks following a federal judge’s ruling that Proposition 8 violates the constitutional rights of California citizens, the issues of same sex marriage once again dominated headlines around the country. With already 18,000 marriage licenses issued to same-sex couples in the state, this ruling profoundly affects the legal and financial rights of many and, with an appeal already underway, may ultimately lead to an unprecedented Supreme Court hearing regarding the legality of same-sex unions.

With uncertainty looming, estate planning for same-sex couples continues to be the only way to document preferences and make them legally enforceable. As an attorney, you make certain that your gay and lesbian clients are prepared so if they become disabled and unable to control their finances, they have say over who will step in and make these decisions for them.  For most couples, you will prepare a durable (financial) power of attorney, health care power of attorney, living will, HIPAA release and wills and/or trusts. In some cases, you may even prepare a domestic -partner agreement, cohabitation agreements and custody agreement to complete the estate plan.  

Of these documents, clients are most likely to require emergency access to the healthcare directives (healthcare proxy, living will and HIPAA release).  And while attorneys advise clients to keep such documents readily accessible at all times, the need for access to these documents is most acute among non-traditional couples.  This is because unlike traditional unions where spouses are routinely bestowed certain rights when visiting each other in the hospital, same-sex couples are often required to produce a health care power of attorney and HIPPA release before they are given any information, access or right to make decisions on behalf of  their loved ones. As such, it is important that documents be accessible 24/7.

To ensure that your LGBT clients are protected amidst swirling controversy and volatile marriage laws, offer them secure online document storage. LegalVault allows your clients to store all of their healthcare and legal documents in one central location. By offering secure online document storage, you are continually providing your clients with an invaluable service—access to their documents when they need them most.

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