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Palm Springs LGBTQ Estate Planning Attorney

At Heritage Legal, PC, we have extensive experience representing clients with LGBTQ estate planning challenges. We understand the unique needs of non-traditional families and members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community. The laws regarding LGBTQ estate planning have evolved in the last twenty-five years. Not long ago, many LGBTQ estate planning clients were not allowed the same legal estate planning protections as heterosexual couples. It is still essential for LGBTQ individuals, couples and families to take the time to create a comprehensive estate plan.

LGBTQ community members are wise to hire an attorney with extensive experience in LGBTQ issues. Founding attorney Christopher Heritage, Esq. has focused a large part of his legal practice on the unique estate planning needs of the LGBTQ community in Palm Springs. Chris Heritage makes it a priority to stay apprised of any changes in LGBTQ estate planning laws, regulations and best practices. To discuss how we can help you with LGBTQ estate planning, contact our Palm Springs law firm today to schedule your initial consultation.

Estate Planning for Non-Traditional Families

Many people have become more accepting of the LGBTQ community. Nonetheless, some LGBTQ individuals have distanced themselves from family members who are not accepting. As a result, many in the LGBTQ community develop strong bonds with friends and other members of the LGBTQ community. This is what is commonly called their “chosen family.” Even though same-sex marriage is now legal in California, many couples who marry do not realize that unless they create an estate plan, their relatives may become their heirs under California's intestate laws.

Without an estate plan in place, the estate of a member of the LGBTQ community will pass to that individual’s heir. California probate courts will administer the distribution of a decedent who dies intestate, or without a Will. Probate courts distribute the estate of an intestate decedent according to California’s succession laws. Courts will distribute the decedent’s community property to the surviving spouse and separate property to the decedent’s children, parents, brothers, sisters, or children of the deceased’s brother or sister.

When an LGBTQ individual gets married to his or her partner and does not put an estate plan in place, a probate court may distribute personal property to family members. Unfortunately, the deceased individual may not have a relationship with his or her heirs and may not want them to inherit the estate. Setting up a comprehensive estate plan with a Will or Living Trust can ensure that one's assets transfer automatically to the deceased individual's chosen beneficiaries. When friends become like family members, creating an estate plan can ensure that an individual's chosen family receives his or her estate.

Overcoming Lingering Bias Through Estate Planning

While laws regarding same-sex couples may have changed, LGBTQ community members still face discrimination in some circumstances. Same-sex spouses now enjoy a protected right to inherit from one another. Nonetheless, family members who do not support members of the LGBTQ community may have the right to contest the estate plan of an LGBTQ community member. Some family members will contest the estate plan when an LGBTQ partner or spouse is the sole beneficiary of the estate. It's wise to have a comprehensive and legally valid estate plan that will hold up when challenged.

Founding attorney Chris Heritage understands the unique challenges in LGBTQ estate planning. He has spent years focusing on the best ways to protect the interests of his LGBTQ clients. Using his estate planning he creates thorough estate plans tailored to the unique needs of his clients. He spends time understanding the goals of each client and finding the best way to achieve those goals. Every comprehensive estate plan should be as unique as the client requesting the plan.

Unique Estate Plannign Issues Facing LGBTQ Couples

Some aspects of LGBTQ estate planning have become easier for LGBTQ couples who marry. Nonetheless, when one LGBTQ spouse or partner has a biological child that the other spouse has not adopted, estate planning issues could arise. Perhaps one spouse may have separate personal property that he or she owned before their marriage.

When LGBTQ couples have gotten married after the legalization of same-sex marriage, one spouse's employment may not recognize the union. An employer may not update the named beneficiaries of the spouse's retirement account. In some instances, same-sex married couples may not be able to qualify for retirement benefits offered by their spouse's employer. LGBTQ community members can anticipate financial and estate planning issues by completing a comprehensive estate plan. A thorough estate plan should include the following:

  • A Last Will and Testament to transfer all assets to a partner, spouse or chosen family
  • An advanced plan for a funeral that is prepaid
  • A trust to facilitate the smooth transfer of estate assets
  • A guardianship plan for children in case both LGBTQ partners die at the same time
  • An Advanced Health Care Directive
  • A memorial service plan
  • The addition of a spouse or domestic partner to retirement accounts or bank accounts

Issues Affecting Transgender Clients

Transgender clients may face unique estate planning issues. Transgendered persons may be concerned about whether or not family members will honor their gender identity after their death. Attorney Chris Heritage has helped many individuals who identify as transgender create memorial service instructions. In these instructions, a transgendered individual can offer instructions for his or her memorial service, which could include the following directions:

  • Specifying the pronouns and gender to be used in the service
  • Ensuring that the headstone uses the individual’s chosen name and gender
  • Determining which family members should receive invitations to the memorial service

Heritage Legal, PC Can Help

Regardless of one’s gender, gender-identify, sexuality, or marital status, taking the time to create a comprehensive estate plan is a wise decision. Attorney Chris Heritage has successfully helped LGBTQ clients with their estate planning for over twenty years. At Heritage Legal, PC, we help LGBTQ individuals, couples, and families protect their legal and financial futures.

We understand how important it is to leave assets to loved ones. As a law firm, we are proud of the progress we've made regarding LGBTQ legal rights. We're here to help our clients make all of the relevant estate planning laws work for them. Contact our Palm Springs firm today to learn how we can help you.


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