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Estate planning for gay couples

As the U.S. Supreme Court wages whether to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act, gay couples in California would be wise to ensure they've taken steps to appropriately plan for both their financial future and that of a surviving spouse and children.

Estate planning encompasses planning for end of life decisions that ultimately impact everyone regardless of sex, age or sexual orientation. There are, however, certain aspects of estate planning to which gay couples should be aware and many laws that hold true today may change in the very near future.

All couples, regardless of whether same-sex or not, would be wise to ensure they have certain essential estate planning documents in order. Such documents include a will, living will and durable power of attorney. Couples should ensure they keep copies of these important documents on hand and gay couples should ensure they have such copies if traveling to a state or country that does not currently recognize gay marriage.

As Americans are living longer, it's important for couples to plan for long-term care needs. Individuals, who take the steps to plan for where and how they want to live out the final chapter of their life, greatly lessen the burden on loved ones including a spouse or partner.

It's also advisable that couples discuss and plan for end of life decisions should one spouse or partner become incapacitated or unable to make decisions. Having a clear idea of what types medical intervention an individual does and does not want taken to preserve their life helps ensure their wishes are carried out and respected.

As the nation awaits a legal decision regarding DOMA, all Americans should embrace the right to plan for their financial future and those of loved ones.

Source: Boston Globe, "Financial planning advice for LGBT families," Stuart Armstrong, March 26, 2013

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