Making sure you have at least a basic estate plan in place is one of the foundational responsibilities of adulthood. Even if you do not have considerable assets to pass along to your loved ones, you do need to consider the possibility of incapacity. Accidents happen every day, and serious illnesses can strike young people unexpectedly as we saw with the highly publicized case of Terri Schiavo that got a lot of attention some years ago. The time and effort spent executing an estate plan with an incapacity component is time well spent, and it is important to remember that it is your family who would suffer if you did not take the proper steps to record your wishes.
This having been stated, there are legal rules of descent that are commonly followed when someone passes away without having an estate plan in place. So if you are married your husband or wife would assume ownership of your property if you were to die intestate or without a will. Similarly, your spouse would be the person who would be legally empowered to make medical or financial decisions in your behalf should you become incapacitated and unable to make them for yourself.
All this is true for opposite-sex couples who are legally married, but gay couples are in a different situation. In most states same-sex unions are not recognized and gay partners do not have inherent legal rights of descent. So you must be proactive about asserting your wishes through the execution of the proper legal documents, and this is best achieved with the assistance of an experienced estate planning attorney.
He or she will first examine the anatomy of your assets and gain a thorough understanding of your wishes. Your lawyer will then advise you as you devise a plan that ensures the desired transfer of your assets while putting representatives of your choosing in place who will be empowered to make medical and financial decisions in your behalf should incapacity ever render you unable to make these decisions for yourself.
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