Written by: Peggy Haslach
June 28th is the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, the event that has been given credit for the start of the gay liberation movement. Fifty years later LGBTQ have come a long way and marriage equality is now the law of the land. The President has stated that “same sex marriage” is settled, but some in the community are concerned that changes to the law could make it hard for LGBT to retain their rights.
What can we do? Right now, I don’t know what we can do to retain our rights but I do have some recommendations about what we can do to shore up what we do have. Here are a few ways you can protect your family’s financial future.
Pull Together Your Team of Professionals
That list should include any service provider that you may need to help you with your financial security and health care. Most of us should enlist the services of:
- Financial Advisor
- Estate Planning Attorney
- Property & Casualty Insurance Agent
- Life Insurance Agent
- Investment Advisor
- Real Estate Agent
- Mortgage Broker
- Healthcare provider
- Any other professional that may be needed for your specific situation. For example, if you or your spouse is a Resident Alien or are here on a visa, you may want to find an immigration attorney.
If you do not know where to find people to fill your list, ask a good friend, family member or another service professional for a recommendation. Usually I have found that if you or your likeminded friend have a great working relationship with one professional, they will know other professionals that will be a good match. They might even be able help you find good people to complete your entire team!
Sit down with each of the professionals on the list above and interview them to make sure they are a good fit. If they are not, then look for another recommendation. Once you have your list together, ask to meet with each one to discuss your needs and concerns. If you have policies or accounts, ask them to explain what you have in place and how you would like to work with them so that you have the flexibility to make changes if it is necessary because your situation changes.
Have Your Estate Planning Attorney Draw Up Your Will and Advance Healthcare Directives
A will helps to make sure your assets are passed to those you choose when you die and may help prevent your love ones having to wade through the challenges of probate. Healthcare directives (also called living wills, healthcare proxy) is a legal document in which a person specifies what actions should be taken if they are no longer able to make decisions for themselves because of illness or incapacity. These documents are essential if you want to authorize your spouse or a trusted companion to make decisions on your behalf. Many married couples assume that because they are married they do not need to have these documents, but that is not the case and, unfortunately, same sex couples and couples with different last names sometimes have a tough time convincing health care providers that they have the right to act on their spouse or partner’s behalf.
Audit your Beneficiaries
With insurance, there is a concept called “insurable interest.” A person has an insurable interest when a loss would cause that person or their beneficiary to suffer a loss. In the case of life insurance, spouses and family members have an insurable interest in the life of the insured. Insurable interest must be in place when the policy is first placed in force (purchased), but does not have to be in place when a claim is initiated. So, if, by chance, gay marriage is reversed, if your spouse is listed as the beneficiary, they will receive the death benefit if you die. Likewise, if you haven’t gotten married yet, or met that right person, you can get the policy and have the beneficiary be a family member when you apply. Then, after the policy is placed in force, you can change the beneficiary to your partner.
Likewise, add or change the beneficiaries for your annuities, retirement accounts (both personal and employer, i.e. 401K, IRA’s, Roth IRA’s, SEP’s). In Washington state and many other states, your spouse must be the beneficiary for your retirement accounts unless they sign away that right. For non-qualified or nonretirement accounts, designating a beneficiary will establish a transfer on death registration (TOD) which allows to account to be transferred to your beneficiary upon your death.
If you or your spouse have a pension, you will want to meet with an advisor to discuss what will happen to the benefits if you and/or your spouse die or become disabled. Most pension plans only pay out to “legal” spouses and challenging that can be a very tedious process.
Make Sure Both of You Can Access Your Accounts
For your property & casualty (home, auto, liability & even pet insurance), make sure both of your names are on the account so that you can both initiate a claim or be covered if you are in an accident. It is best if you personally know and trust your agent so they can help service your account and initiate claims. Likewise, you will want to have your spouse’s name listed on of your utilities and services so that both of you can make changes or call to have the account serviced or canceled.
It is also best to work directly with an agent for your life, disability and long term care insurance. You will want to introduce your spouse, partner and family to this agent, so they do not wait until there is a claim to meet them. If you are not working with the agent or advisor who sold you the policy, make sure your agent is appointed to service your policy. You may have to fill out a form or send a letter to change the agent. This will allow your agent to contact the insurance company on your behalf or work with you or your family initiate a claim.
This list is not exhaustive and it not exclusive to the LGBT. In fact, these tips should be shared with your family and friends and anyone of us who wants to protect their family’s financial future. We are living in some uncertain times so let’s focus our energy on the things we can do rather than worry about what will happen. And, one thing we can do is make sure we take care of ourselves and do the things that work for our future regardless of what happens with the changes in the laws.