When Love Wins (But Doesn’t Last)

Love won but the law still lags behind, and it presents a unique set of challenges to those gay couples who’ve decided to end their marriages.

Divorce is hard enough for anyone to consider, but the plain fact is that anyone who has gone through a divorce really must give some thought to their estate planning. This is more true, not less, for LGBTQ families, because Georgia law still hasn’t quite settled for non-traditional families.

Just last year, the state legislature approved a bill that would have allowed some companies to “opt out” of serving LGBTQ families on religious grounds. The bill was vetoed, but that doesn’t mean it or similar laws can’t come roaring back.

The good news is that, on average, LGBTQ families tend to be wealthier. The bad news is that means they’ve got even more at stake when they divorce–and when they think about what they want to leave behind.

Here, at the Scriber Law Group, we spend a lot of time worrying about those kind of threats, so you won’t have to. Below are just a few things to keep in mind as you prepare your legacy, even as you prepare for the next chapter of your life.

Where There’s A Will…

There’s often fewer probate problems. When the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in 2015, it automatically conferred all sorts of rights that straight couples had taken for granted. There’s no doubt that a legal marriage has cut down on mountains of legal paperwork for LGBTQ families, but it’s also created a few pitfalls.

For instance, under Georgia law, if you die without a will, your ex could still inherit most or all of your estate. Redrafting a will–preferably before you file for divorce–can save a lot of worry (and even lawsuits) down the road.

Kids’ Stuff

Then you’ll want to think about any children that you and your ex were raising together. Any custody agreement that you and your ex signed expires when one or both of the parents do. As you redraft your will, you may want to consider appointing a guardian, or creating special trusts so that your child can be taken care of after you’re gone.

If you and your ex disagreed about how to raise your children, for instance, you can create a trust for the kids with special conditions such as incentives for (say) what you consider to be an appropriate education or religious upbringing.

An Ounce Of Prevention

A will and special trust will no doubt ease your mind, but it doesn’t completely erase the paperwork burden. You’ll want to give special consideration to matters like advanced directives (Who makes healthcare decisions for you, if you’re too ill to make them yourself?), life insurance policies, and even, what happens if you’re lucky enough to fall in love again?

Georgia law, for instance, automatically voids any previously signed wills when a person marries–unless that will specifically, and carefully, states that it was written in anticipation of a future marriage.

It may seem arduous to consider all that paperwork laid out in front of you, but consider it as a kind of insurance for your loved ones. The more time you spend dotting I’s and crossing T’s now, the less time they’ll getting dotted and crossed in court later.

The Next Chapter (And Beyond)

More than anything, though, give yourself a break. One of the nastier side effects of divorce is depression and depression is, literally, a killer.

As you turn the page on one chapter of your life, know that you’re laying out the plot to a brighter next chapter. With a little bit of careful planning, you can guarantee a happy ending not just for yourself, but for your loved ones, for years to come.

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Scriber Law Group, LLC

Scriber Law Group, LLC is heavily experienced in handling the needs of clients with specific, complex estate planning and asset protection needs, such as same-sex couples and blended families.

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