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Estate planning is important for nontraditional couples

Let's say you and your life partner have recently married, but neither of you has prepared a will, which is the centerpiece of an estate plan.

You have the same rights as traditional couples and the same need to plan for your future. Now that you have gotten married, this is a good time to put your estate planning documents in place.

What the laws provide

As of 2014, the state of Arizona permits same-sex couples to marry. In 2015, by a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court held that under the 14 Amendment, all states have to perform and recognize same-sex marriages, so now it is unanimous. The ruling ensures same-sex couples can receive the same state benefits as traditional couples. Furthermore, the U.S. Department of the Treasury has made same-sex couples eligible to receive certain federal tax benefits that are already accorded to heterosexual couples.

Understanding probate

Whether you prepare a will or die without one, your estate will be subject to the probate process. This is the process of winding up your affairs, paying your debts and tax obligations and distributing the remaining assets. If you have a will, the court will want to ensure it is valid. The judge will want to know who the executor is and who the beneficiaries are before the process of settling the estate can begin. If you do not prepare a will, the judge will make the decisions as to who should administer your estate, what the assets are and who should receive them. The court’s decision in these matters may not be to your liking, which is a good reason to prepare a will.

Looking ahead

Even if you and your partner have decided not to marry, you can create an estate plan that addresses some of the issues unmarried couples face. In so doing, you can provide your partner with the legal right to manage your healthcare if you should become incapacitated and manage your estate when you die.

Same-sex couples have rights. Make sure you protect yours with the appropriate estate-planning documents. 

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