Where there’s a Will…

Up until recently I don’t know that I was a believer in the need for marriage for same-sex couples. Even with the Husbear and I having been together for 15 years, in my brain it didn’t seem like something we really needed. But because of recent events, I’ve reconsidered that. Probably not for the reason most people do however.

There is one major reason I think marriage of same-sex couples should be legal: because I don’t want to have to deal with death differently than legally married people do.

Let me explain.

When one half of a legally married couple dies, the surviving half has certain rights and benefits automatically extended to them that help protect that person during that time of distress and after. But when one half of a not legally married couple dies, things can—and often do—go downhill quickly for the other half in regards to decision making and their future.

One shouldn’t have to be thinking about “what happens to our stuff” or “where am I going to live” before the funeral is over. And yet, that happens time and again to many same-sex couples.

Until that day comes when same-sex couples can be married with legal recognition throughout the entire country and have these same legal rights, I urge you to hire an attorney and get whatever legal documents you need to have for the state you reside in to have the legal protection similar to what legally married couples get automatically: a Last Will; Living Trust; Power of Attorney; Living Will; Disposition of Remains.

You can get an idea of what some of those do here.

And I know this sounds odd, but make sure you have the paperwork drawn up and signed separately. You don’t want your partner’s family members saying you forced your partner to sign them under duress and contest the paperwork. It happens.

Someone has to take care of your possessions and finances after you are gone. The only way to make sure it’s your partner is to declare that in a Last Will. Or better, a Living Trust.

And while it sounds morbid, decree what you want done with your body and what kind of funeral you would like. A funeral should be a reflection of that person’s life, not what someone else thinks it should be. Do you really want to subject friends to a religious-themed funeral if you are an atheist, all because a family member gets to decide after you are gone? Do you want your body to be cremated but instead someone has you embalmed? Do you want certain songs played? These are things you can declare in a Disposition of Remains, or similarly named document in your state.

Who would have thought death could be so complicated?

And the paperwork exists not just for when you are dead, but before that as well. Who will make medical decisions when/if you are unable to? Or I should say, who will be legally allowed to make those decisions for you? That’s what documents like the Living Will and Health Care Power of Attorney are for.

Once you have the paperwork, make sure you keep it updated as your life changes. And ALWAYS carry copies of it with you at all times—as well as your attorney’s phone number—because you never know when it’s going to be needed.

Until next time...

10 thoughts on “Where there’s a Will…

  1. this is good advice for everybody, not just the gay community. I would suggest it, even if you are legally married. My wife and I have different opinions on life support, I do not want to be kept alive by a machine if I do not have a good chance for a meaningful life. She would want to keep the body alive for as long as possible to avoid death/funeral. I have an ex (or two) who just might try to horn in on the windfall (not that there is all that much), and I do not want them to get anything. They are ex for a reason. Like many people, I have financial business set up prior to meeting and marrying my wife. She needs access to them when I can not.

    Morbid subject? No. Prudent planning.

  2. When I turned 40 (way back when) we made sure to get all our affairs in order. We were as protected as a same-sex couple could be in terms of property, money, survivorship deeds, life ending decisions and after life body disposal (burial is not an option for me).

    That said, with changes to the law we might not be aware of, it’s not a bad idea to have those papers relooked at and updated every 5 or 10 years.

  3. There are many documented horror stories of gay men and lesbians losing all their own possessions including their clothing because relatives of a deceased partner, who was the homeowner or whose name was on the lease, wanted to erase any trace of a gay person in their family. Legal marriage is the best protection for gays; failing that, a full set of legal documents is essential.

  4. Yeah, I think that along with visitation rights when a partner get sick and have to be hospitalized is really what getting married is all about for gay couples.

  5. Great advice, Erik. My best friend from Kindergarten just passed away. We texted or spoke to each other every day for the past four years. He wasn’t married but has three adult children. He lived alone and had a heart attack one night. His daughter found him the next day.
    Patrick was a big black guy whose mother raise him and his five siblings as Jehovah Witness. When Patrick became an adult he turned away from that and became Baptist. Have you ever seen a black, Baptist church service? Everybody up and clapping and loud? Yeah, like that.
    Patrick’s sisters however are still Jehovah Witness.
    Can you tell where I”m going with this?
    Patrick’s sisters took over the funeral and insisted that it woudl be done Jehovah Witness style. His children, who were in shock and disbelief, went along with it.
    They had nothing to show that Patrick would have HATED that. They are still angry and upset that the service, which is meant to comfort and console, instead was upsetting and foreign to them.
    Thanks for posting this. I’ll be talking to my husband tonight.

  6. We got *legally* married for these reasons: legal rights and protections under the law. We had our *committment ceremony* way before it was legally recognized because it was something we wanted to do and was meaningful to us. You give good, sound advice here and preparing for things once you’re gone is also an act of love and compassion for your loved ones.

  7. I just went through a
    situation this week.
    Even though I had all the legal paperwork completed, there was still a gap of time that was out of my control and very scary. Fortunately I’m in Vermont where same sex marriage is legal. I wrote about it on my blog, which has prompted a few conversations involving horror stories of what people have been through. Wise advice you’ve shared. You simply can not be over-prepared.

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