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Panel offers same-sex couples estate planning advice

Every person in Michigan has different needs when it comes to planning estates and it is important for everyone to know how the law affects their specific circumstances.

The Gay Elders of Southeastern Michigan recently held a panel about legal issues affecting same-sex couples in the state. At the panel, they offered advice on topics such as wills, powers of attorney, trusts and inheritance issues in order to give members of the gay and lesbian community information about their concerns.

Gay couples face unique challenges when planning their estates because Michigan's laws provide no claim of inheritance to gay partners.

The panel said that this makes having a will very important so that a person can express his or her intentions.

However, other family members can always challenge a will in court. This means it may be important to take steps like listing both partners' names on titles, insurance policies, contracts, and powers of attorney to provide an extra layer of protection.

Powers of attorney are also very important to gay families. Without a medical power of attorney, someone's partner may have no rights to be in the hospital or make medical decisions concerning an incapacitated partner. One panelist said that she's seen cases where people were kept out of the hospital while their partner died. Another type of power of attorney, a financial power of attorney, allows a person to manage their deceased or incapacitated partner's assets.

Many people face unique challenges when it comes to estate planning. Those who are concerned about the future of their estates--no matter how large or small--as well as medical decision-making control should seek to gain a full understanding of their legal rights to make sure that final wishes are fulfilled as intended.

Source: Pride Source, "Panel sheds lights on legal issues for older adults," Crystal A. Proxmire, Oct. 25, 2012

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