Same sex relationships can make for complicated inheritance issues, an estate planning attorney in Salt Lake City cautions

December 19, 2014

Now that the marriage equality issue in Utah is settled, many of the pending adoption questions by same sex couples have been answered, much to the relief of hundreds of families. But that doesn’t mean that everyone is out of the woods, an estate planning attorney in Salt Lake City might say. Although a family lawyer can help sort out the adoptions processes for same sex couples in Utah now, it’s still important that families review their long-term plans and provide instructions in the event of the death of one of the parents, as uncertainty in this family’s case illustrates.

It’s not uncommon for divorced parents –gay or straight—to want to tie everything up for the children born within the relationship. In the one South Carolina family’s case, one woman gave birth to a child while in a same-sex relationship, which ended five years later. Now, the other partner wants to adopt the adult (22 year old) offspring after seventeen years “as a second parent for inheritance purposes.” Such a case shows how desired estate arrangements can change over time and can sometimes become very complex. A similar case in Utah would necessitate the need for counsel from an estate planning attorney in Salt Lake City, regardless of the law’s recent changes on marriage equality.

While the estate planning attorney responding to the write-in question on the AVVO site encourages the asker to review whatever estate planning documents may already be in place and to do “as much as possible to secure inheritance by way of private planning documents such as will or trust,” she is careful to caution, “In no circumstance would I advise using a form will or drafting one without legal guidance,” something an estate planning attorney in Salt Lake City would reiterate.

Involving property, investments, material belongings and anything else owned by either parent, an estate usually includes a lot of stuff, and each asset may have specific tax or inheritance rules upon the owner’s death or disability. In the case of desiring to pass down some of these assets to biological or adopted children in traditional or same-sex marriages in Utah, the law can get enormously complex, fast. Again, don’t print a DIY will off the internet—legal counsel from a state bar licensed estate planning attorney in Salt Lake City is pretty much the only guarantee that you’ll be able to pass down what you want and to whom when you’re gone.

For the South Carolina couple, fewer protections are available, given that “this is still a grey area of the law” in that state, and the attorney responding to the legal question notes that although “it might be a really fun test case for a lawyer who took an interest in these issues, the bad news is, test cases are not cheap and winning is not always guaranteed.” Until marriage equality is unilaterally diffused across every state in the union, affording homogamous couples the same inheritance rights as hetergamous couples, again: consulting a lawyer with the expertise for planning your estate in the meantime will be the best bet.



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