The Importance of a Last Will and Testament
Upon your death, if you do not have a valid Will, the State of Texas will determine how your assets shall be distributed through a process called intestacy, or intestate succession. Since Texas does not recognize marriages of same sex couples, the rules of intestacy will not distribute property to same sex partners. Instead, your property will be distributed in one of several ways to your children, parents, siblings, or possibly even distant relatives. By executing a valid Will, you can bypass these old rules of intestate succession and determine how you want you assets distributed as well as decide who you want to administer your estate.
Medical Powers of Attorney
If you have a medical emergency requiring a decision to be made, and you are unable to make that decision yourself, a family member may be the only person the hospital or doctors will listen to. The Agent(s) of your choosing under a Medical Power of Attorney can make such medical decisions for you should be unable to at the time. Since Texas does not recognize same sex marriages, your partner will not be able to make those decisions for you without a Medical Power of Attorney.
Care and Guardianship Over Minor Children
Gay couples with children are generally not both biologically related to the child or may not both be listed as a parent on the adoption papers. If the adoptive or biological parent dies, the child’s other parent may not be appointed guardian of the minor child without a Designation of Guardian. While this document cannot guarantee the appointment of the non-biological, non-adoptive parent as the child’s guardian, the Courts in Texas give great deference to the choices of deceased parents’ in regards to their minor children’s care. A Designation of Guardian is a key document in formalizing these choices.
Funerals and Grieving Loved Ones
Much like medical decisions, funeral homes will look to the nearest family members when the time comes for to care for your remains. Since Texas doesn’t recognize same sex partner’s as family members, your surviving partner will have no say in how your remains are disposed of. Thankfully, you can designate someone close to you to make these decisions, and give him or her the authority necessary to instruct the funeral homes accordingly.
When planning for the preservation and growth of your estate, as well as your and your children’s future care in Texas, these documents play an integral role for same sex couples. Without a valid Will there are many undesirable pitfalls a same sex couple may encounter, though effective estate planning can minimize the pitfalls and ensure the your wishes are carried out. Additionally, effective documentation can ensure your care, and the care of your children into tomorrow and beyond. We highly recommend that same sex couples seek the advice of a competent estate planning attorney to help you in planning and drafting these documents and many others that are available to you.