Estate planning can be very useful for LGBT couples, whether they choose to get married or not. Although many legal and social benefits were obtained with marriage equality, there is, unfortunately still uncertainty about the permanency of these rights. Estate planning can help LGBT couples establish the rights that spouses are guaranteed. A Chicago estate planning attorney can help LGBT couples determine what documents are most useful for protecting their rights.

Estate planning has several benefits, both for couples who are married and those who don’t wish to be. By creating an estate plan, couples can be confident about the rights they have regarding their partner. It can also clearly determine their parental rights toward their children. LGBT estate planning can also give couples all the same benefits as anyone creating an estate plan.

Creating Legal Rights That Are Equivalent to Spousal Rights

Many LGBT couples want to provide their partner with the rights of a spouse, including the right to make important medical and financial decisions and the right to inherit. Not all gay couples wish to get married. Those who have chosen to get married do not have the luxury of assuming that those rights are guaranteed. Estate planning can help couples give each other the rights of legal spouses without fear that these rights may be revoked.

Several estate planning documents are commonly used to establish these rights. They include:

  1. Last will and testament. This document allows you to state the distribution of your estate, name an executor, and designate a guardian for your minor children. It also allows you to give your partner inheritance rights and guardianship over your children.
  2. Trusts. These can distribute assets like wills, but they do so privately and outside of probate court.
  3. Living will. This states your wishes for how your medical care is handled if you are incapacitated.
  4. Powers of attorney. This gives a trusted individual power over specific decisions. The most common powers of attorney are medical and financial. These documents allow you to give your partner the ability to make crucial financial decisions and actions, along with medical decisions, on your behalf.

Without establishing these rights, your partner may be unable to make important decisions or receive specific benefits.

Protecting Your Children

Children of LGBT relationships are frequently adopted, or they are the biological child of one parent. Estate planning can help ensure that your children are given the right guardian if something were to happen to you, and it can also secure your children’s right to inherit. A will can name your partner or spouse as the primary guardian in case the court does not recognize their legal parentage under marital presumed parentage. Your will or trusts can also provide assets to your children that they might not otherwise receive.

Providing More Privacy

Comprehensive estate planning usually includes trusts as a tool for asset distribution. Unlike wills, trusts are private legal entities, so they are not part of the public record. For some LGBT couples, this privacy is crucial to the safety of themselves and their families. Keeping an estate out of probate also has additional benefits, like saving your loved ones time and money.

Avoiding Familial Disputes

LGBT individuals who do not have good relationships with their biological family members often have concerns about what happens after their own death. Unfortunately, there is a possibility that biological family members will try to interfere, such as by contesting a will, contesting the guardianship of children, or trying to have the deceased individual remembered by an incorrect identity.

A more comprehensive estate plan can enable you to limit these issues. Although it can be difficult to completely prevent interference, clear and enforceable estate planning can address these issues and keep contests from being successful. However, this only works if your estate plan is legally valid and straightforward about its wishes.


Q: What Is an Advantage of Having an Estate Plan?

A: There are several advantages to having an estate plan, with the primary benefit being the ability to plan for your future. Whether an estate plan is simple or comprehensive, you can determine the distribution of your estate and name beneficiaries for the assets in your estate. Comprehensive estate planning can also avoid probate court, plan for your own end-of-life care, and provide other benefits for you and your loved ones.

Q: What Estate Planning Strategies Are Available to Unmarried Cohabitants?

A: An estate plan can allow unmarried cohabitants to manually provide each other with some of the same rights that the law automatically gives to married couples. For example, by naming a cohabitant as your healthcare power of attorney, they have the right to make medical decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated and cannot make those choices. By listing your partner in your will or trust as the primary beneficiary or as the beneficiary of specific assets, you can give them the assets that you want them to receive after your death.

Q: Does a Spouse Automatically Inherit Everything in Illinois?

A: A spouse may automatically inherit everything in Illinois if the deceased spouse has no descendants. When an individual dies without a will, their estate is distributed according to the state’s inheritance laws. In Illinois, the first steps of distribution are as follows:

  1. If there is a surviving spouse and surviving descendants, half the entire estate goes to their spouse, and half goes to their descendants.
  2. If there are only surviving descendants, the entire estate passes to their descendants.
  3. If there is only a surviving spouse, the entire estate passes to the spouse.

Q: What Are the Two Primary Goals of Estate Planning?

A: The goals of estate planning are unique to every individual, but two common priorities that people have when creating their estate plans include:

  1. Protecting your loved ones by using trusts to avoid probate court and saving them time, money, and stress
  2. Protecting your own interests and planning for incapacitation by establishing your wishes for medical care, placing trusted individuals in charge of medical and financial decisions, and determining the distribution of your estate after death

Estate Planning in Chicago

Estate planning can be complicated, and it needs to be enforceable to provide you and your loved ones with benefits. A skilled estate planning attorney in Chicago can help you create a plan that addresses your concerns. Contact Stange Law Firm today.