One of the unique things about being a part of the LGBT community is that same sex couples don’t follow any strict conventions. Families come in many forms: from marriage to domestic partnership and co-habitation. Some have kids, some don’t. No matter what form your family structure takes there are some important things for you to know. The first is that our laws favor marriage over other statuses.
But now that same sex couples can marry doesn’t mean you should relax about your rights and protections. So listen up! If you haven’t already, educate yourself about the benefits, costs or limitations of your situation. The good news is that you can plan for any situation. The bad news is: not everyone does. And sadly, sometimes this comes with enormous emotional and financial cost. So here are four things for same sex couples to know:
Get your documents in order!
If you and your loved one cohabitate or are domestic partners and something terrible happens to you, your partner has very few rights. Plain and simple. If you are married, you are more protected. But in all three situations, you must have your wishes spelled out in legal documents and beneficiary information. That means a will, a power of attorney, health care directives and proper titling of your assets. If not, you are exposing yourself and loved one to risk and a very messy situation during some of life’s most difficult times.
Marriage may cost you more in taxes.
So you’re about to get married and then you find out its going to cost you more money — say, what?! I’m talking about the marriage penalty. Couples with similar incomes over $100k/year may pay more in taxes each year once they are married and file their tax return jointly (sometimes there’s a marriage bonus too!). And while that’s a bummer, don’t forget about the numerous other provisions and protections that come along with marriage — there are over 1,000! Have a quick chat with your accountant to understand what your situation is so that you’re not blindsided after you tie the knot.
Understand your health insurance options.
You can only be on each other’s insurance if you are partnered (usually) or married. But there’s one huge difference: if you are in a domestic partnership and get health insurance from your partner’s plan and your employer pays those premiums, you’re going to be taxed on them. This could quickly add up into the thousands. If you’re married there would be no tax consequence to insuring your partner. Remember this if you are in this situation and considering marriage and also those extra taxes you may pay!
If kids are involved, get sound legal advice.
Adopted, biological, surrogate – whatever – make sure you get professional legal advice about the legal rights you have as parents especially if you are not married. This way both parents and kids are properly protected and know their status is safe in the eyes of the law.
There are many other nuances for same sex couples involving estate planning, governmental benefits and kids. Make it a point to learn about them. There are some great resources out there for you to read. But be sure to seek out professional help too. It may cost you a little money to get this all in order, but you will reap enormous value from it over time. You might get an immediate financial benefit and enjoy peace of mind that your loved ones are protected.
Bottom line, no matter how you choose to structure your relationship, take the time to educate yourself about it. And then find someone who will make sure you are doing the right things for you. I’m also here to help or to connect you to other professionals.