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Do not rely on Washington law for same-sex estate planning

As Kent readers may know from previous discussions, estate planning for same-sex couples in Washington requires considerations above and beyond those necessary to effectuate the wishes of opposite-sex couples. The suggestion that everyone consider implementing a simple and effective estate plan regardless of wealth holds even more truth for same-sex partners. Fortunately, even though state law does not afford same-sex partners the same default benefits that it grants to opposite-sex couples, an experienced estate planning professional can help with a few easy steps that can go a long way toward ensuring the well being of same-sex families.

One of the first steps that partners in a same-sex relationship should take is to execute a will. Without a will, each partner's probate assets will pass in accordance with state law to the closest legal heirs, starting with children and then proceeding to parents, siblings or more distant relatives.

Same-sex partners should also be certain to execute valid, legally sound powers of attorney. Powers of attorney make it possible for a surviving partner to take care of important financial matters after a loved one's death. Powers of attorney also play a critical role in making sure that partners can access each others' medical documents and not be excluded from hospital visitations.

Tax and property title issues also become more complicated for same-sex couples. A professional review of property titles and financial instruments, such as retirement accounts, can help make certain that valuable assets pass to the surviving partner and are not distributed according to default rules.

More and more financial advisors are seeking out specialized training to help same-sex couples develop investment portfolios that take into account the disparities in state and federal law. Ultimately, though, only a thoughtfully prepared comprehensive estate plan can ensure that hard-earned assets end up in the hands of a loved one rather than on the desk of a probate court judge.

Source: AOL Daily Finance, "Financial Planning for Same-Sex Couples: 5 Tips You Can't Afford to Ignore," Nov. 9, 2012

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