Why Estate Planning is Critical for LGBT Individuals

On most folks’ to-do lists, LGBT estate planning generally doesn’t fall near the top. However, it is an important part of life planning, in order to protect yourself and your loved ones should something happen to you. It is particularly critical for LGBT individuals and families, because research shows they are more vulnerable for several reasons. Let’s take a closer look.

In last year’s AB-2719 Bill in California, LGBT elders were specifically identified by the legislature as “higher risk” when compared to other elders. Several factors were taken into account. It was found that LGBT elders were more likely to be isolated, and to have smaller social networks. Additionally, they tend to have lower incomes and net worth than their straight counterparts, making them more financially vulnerable.

The cause of these trends can be hypothesized when considering the historical context. LGBT elders today were raised in the 1940’s through the 1960’s. During that time period, attitudes toward the LGBT community was enormously different than today. “Out” lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, and other queer individuals were often ostracized from their families and communities, and were denied basic rights such as healthcare, housing, and employment. Of course, gay marriage was not legalized nationwide until the 2015 ruling of Obergefell v Hodges, so the legal and financial benefits of marriage were also out of reach.

Though we have made significant progress in recent decades, LGBT discrimination still resides in our laws, as well as in our cultural norms and behaviors. This affects every aspect of life, including estate planning, end of life care, and other aspects of LGBT elder life. For example, a recent lawsuit in Missouri addressed a case where a lesbian couple was denied residency in a senior care home. While this is a particularly egregrious example of discrimination, it can appear in many hidden, covert ways. A strong LGBT estate plan can help prevent this.

Lastly, a new study out of the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research found that LGBT individuals were more likely to delay seeking health care when experiencing illness. The research suggested that this was likely caused out of fear of discrimination, which often prevented folks from contacting a doctor until an illness had become a crisis. This frequently resulted in a higher risk of dangerous health conditions: “our study shows bisexuals have among the greatest need for regular health care, but are the least likely to get it,” said researcher Joelle Wolstein.

A strong LGBT estate plan, which may include wills and trusts, end of life planning, power of attorney determination and more, can help reduce these risks. It will help ensure that your relationships are not questioned, your assets are protected, and your health and finance decisions are respected. Of course, it also helps ensure that your loved ones face less stress during your illness or death. This peace of mind is invaluable.

If you’re considering hiring a Los Angeles LGBT estate planning attorney, call us for a free, no-commitment consultation at either our Palm Springs or Hollywood locations.

Image by Val Vesa