If you are part of a same-sex couple then you probably are all too aware of the fact that same-sex marriage is only an option in a handful of states at this point in time. Some states that do not recognize marriage for same-sex couples allow civil unions or domestic partnerships; however, both the federal government and the majority of the states do not currently recognize same-sex marriages, unions or partnerships. If you live in a state that does, and are legally married to your partner, what happens to your rights and benefits as a married couple if you move to a new state?
The answer to that depends, of course, on what state you move to; however, your fist step when you are aware that a move is pending is to consult with an estate planning attorney in your new state of residency. Although you cannot get around the fact that your new state of residency may not recognize your marriage, there are changes you can make to your estate plan that will compensate for the lack of recognition.
Almost all of the rights and benefits that a spouse enjoys as a matter of law can be created through a carefully crafted estate plan. For example, you can give your same-sex spouse the right to make decisions for you and the right to control your assets if you ever become incapacitated through your estate plan. You can also use your Last Will and Testament as well as trusts to ensure that your spouse is financially cared for after your death. The important thing is to address these necessary changes as soon as you change your residency to ensure that you are both protected.
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