top ten legal protections for gays & lesbians who choose not to wed

1. will:

Even if you do not have much money or own any real estate, a will is a simple way to make your intentions clear for what you want to have happen to your stuff in the event of your death. A will also provides the opportunity to specify whom you wish to be the guardian of any minor children, as well as to name the personal representative of your choice to administer your estate through the probate process.

2. properly titled deed and accounts:

If you want your interest to pass directly to your partner on your death, and avoid probate, the property might be titled Joint Tenants With Rights of Survivorship.

3. durable power of attorney:

This gives your partner the power to do everything short of vote on your behalf. Florida law changed several years ago so "springing" powers are no longer effective. Therefore, these powers are effective immediately and are very serious, giving your designate complete authority over your financial affairs upon execution.

4. designation of health care surrogate:

This is about access and decision-making in the health-care context. Health care providers love this document because they know to whom they can turn for consent.

5. living will:

If you should be in a terminal condition, this advance directive states your intention for how you would want to be treated and in what cases you would want no heroic measures to be utilized to keep you alive artificially.

6. designation of pre-need guardian:

If a court determines you are unable to handle your medical and financial decisions, a guardian may be appointed for you. Specify who you would want to do this, or the court will likely appoint someone else.

7. designation of pre-need guardian for minor child:

If you have a minor child, you can designate a guardian to care for him or her in the event of your disability. Along with a second parent adoption, this is helpful to be sure that the next person in line is given authority to care for your child if you or your other legal co-parent are not able to.

8. beneficiary designations:

Beneficiary designations usually control in the event of a conflict with your will. Check your designations on any account or policy that allows for one, including your IRA, life insurance, and 401(k) to make sure they reflect your current intentions.

9. co-habitation agreement:

A legally married couple that breaks up has a body of law to help them sort things out. The best we can do is enter into a contract for how we will divide up financial and domestic responsibilities while we are together and what should happen if we break up.

10. second parent adoption:

If you are raising a child with a same-sex partner, one if you is probably not the legal parent. Due to recent changes in Florida law, it's possible to fix this with a simple adoption process whereby the parent who is currently not the legal parent completes a formal adoption of the child. This can save you from a whole lot of heartache, whether from each other or the outside world, down the line. The child could also receive important benefits such as social security and health insurance as a result of the adoption. 



Of course, this is not a substitute for individual legal advice, but you should start thinking about the protections you need to have in place. This topic can get quite complicated depending on your circumstances, so it's best to consult legal counsel knowledgeable about federal and Florida law on estate planning and advanced directives. Please do not wait for tragedy to befall before you handle these matters. To schedule a meeting to discuss your situation and how our firm can assist you, call the office at 305.674.9222 or email to arrange a consultation with Elizabeth Schwartz.