An interview with Joan Burda at the American Bar Association Meeting 8/2012
The Defense of Marriage Act has been ruled unconstitutional by two federal courts, but LGBT marriages have yet to receive federal recognition and the rights and protections that come with it. One area in which this impacts same-sex couples is estate planning and inheritance.
Earlier this week a probate judge in Hennepin County, Minnesota issued a ruling that Minnesota's ban on same-sex marriage does not apply to inheritance rights.
Thomas Proehl and James Morrison were married in San Francisco in 2008. Thomas died suddenly in 2011. He did not have a will. He did have a bank account, in his name only, that contained the proceeds from the sale of the couple's home in California. The men intended to put James' name on the account, but never got around to it.
Tom Proehl also planned to name his spouse, Jim, as the beneficiary of his life insurance. But, he didn't get it done before his death.
Without a will, Tom's estate became a probate asset. Under Minnesota law, Jim is not recognized as a legal descendant. He has no rights to inherit under Minnesota law.
On Friday, August 3, I spoke at the American Bar Association Annual meeting in Chicago on LGBT issues. This was in conjunction with the release of the second edition of my estate planning book, Estate Planning for Same-Sex Couples, that the ABA publishes.
My law practice is concentrated in estate planning and business consulting. Most of my estate planning clients are lesbians and gay men. Most are in a committed relationship. An increasing number are raising children.
First, let's get some things, ahem, straight. You don't need children to be a family. Most lesbian and gay couples are not raising children. Most gay and lesbian couples live in non-recognition states. Those are the ones that do not recognize lesbian and gay relationships. And, most lesbian and gay couples have not done any estate planning. That is a mistake.
I thought a primer on estate planning might be helpful: