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Estate planning for same-sex couples

6/11/2015 | Kaplin Stewart Blog

No two Pennsylvania residents will have the exact same set of estate planning needs. The manner in which these legal tools are drafted and combined is unique for everyone, and the estate planning process is one in which customization plays a central role. That said, certain residents will have specific needs that fall outside the norm. A prime example lies in same-sex couples, where a tailored approach is required.

For same-sex couples, inheritance laws can be a challenge, as the legitimacy of same-sex marriage remains a topic of heavy legal debate. Couples who are unmarried, or who want an additional layer of protection as the legality of their union is under attack, may wish to take a more targeted estate planning approach. That planning begins with drafting a clear and valid will, in which one’s partner can be named as sole heir.

In addition to a will, same-sex couples should also make the proper beneficiary designations. Accounts such as banking, investment and retirement accounts all ask for a named beneficiary. This person will inherit the assets held within those accounts at the time of the holder’s death, regardless of the presence or contents of a will.

Also, same-sex couples who share a child should take steps to legitimize the legal relationship of both parents to that child. In some cases, this can take the form of the non-biological parent adopting the child. For other families, a written parenting agreement is a good fit, as is a document in which the other biological parent relinquishes his or her rights to the child in question.

When considering how to address estate planning needs, same-sex couples should seek the highest level of legal coverage possible. While same-sex unions are recognized in Pennsylvania, there is no guarantee that this will always be the case. Having a solid foundation of planning in place can help couples insure that their wishes are carried out in the event of the death of one partner.

Source:, “Same-Sex Couples Need Financial, Estate Planning“, Karen DeMasters, May 26, 2015