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Same-sex couples need estate planning, too

Since 2013, same-sex couples have been able to marry here in Delaware. With the passage of the necessary legislation, same-sex couples received the same rights that have been enjoyed by their heterosexual counterparts for decades. However, just as is the case with heterosexual married couples, estate planning is necessary for same-sex couples in order to fully protect and provide for one's spouse after one's death.

Without a will, Delaware laws of intestacy will govern where your assets go after your death. These laws apply to everyone, even married couples. Therefore, at least a portion of your assets could end up with someone whom you did not intend to receive anything.

In addition, it might not seem necessary to have powers of attorney for your finances and health care. However, assuming that those duties would automatically fall to your spouse could be catastrophic. In the absence of clear instructions in advance directives and powers of attorney, other family members could contest your spouse's right to make decisions. This could mean that decisions would be put on hold while a court makes those determinations on your behalf. Your spouse might still end up making the decisions as you intended, but in the meantime, your life could be in jeopardy and your assets could flounder.

Therefore, it would be a good idea to discuss your situation with an estate planning attorney. After reviewing all of the relevant information, a plan can be devised to ensure that your spouse is protected in the event of your death, and you are protected in the event of incapacitation. Everyone can benefit from estate planning regardless of his or her marital status, but married couples, same-sex or heterosexual, need to plan -- especially if there are minor children involved.

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