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LGBTQ estate planning is unique and comes with a special set of documents that protect our unions, relationships, and families not just in the United States but abroad in countries that do not recognize marriage equality or worse, in countries where it is illegal to live out and openly as an LGBTQ individual.  

Careful planning can help create an estate plan that is in the best interest of your estate, but the plan must go further than a standard estate plan.

Step 1: capturing your assets and liabilities.

What exactly are you leaving to loved ones? And no, this is not only for the rich and famous!  It could just be that you calculate your debt but either way, it is important to know exactly what your assets and liabilities are so that your loved ones can oversee your affairs.

If you already have a financial advisor or accountant, you may consider consulting with them to obtain this, but you certainly do not need one to do this calculation!

Calculate your Net Worth: make yourself a rough estimate of values of the following in your name, and have any spouse or partner do the same. If any of the below options do not apply to you, just skip them:

  • Bank Accounts. Retrieve copies of all your latest bank statements; these should include all account types such as checking, savings, CD’s, and money markets.   If you have bank accounts that are joint, with your name and the name of your partner or spouse, create a separate “Joint” column for listing these.
  • Investment Accounts. Next, let’s look at any investments separate from your retirement accounts, which we will get to later on.  Similar to your bank accounts, retrieve all your most recent Investment account statements.   Also like bank accounts, note whether these are individual, joint with spouse or another relative and account for them accordingly.
  • Valued stocks and bonds. Stocks owned from a publicly traded company should be value estimated by researching the current value per share using a reputable financial institution or website. Publicly traded bonds should be traced back to the original purchaser, and estimated for current value. If you have U.S. savings bonds you can check with the federal reserve. 
  • Life insurance values. Making sure to note both the names of the owner and the name of the insured are both critical to accounting for life insurance policies as well as noting that these names will match on your estate plan. Also, make sure you understand the insurance policy- meet with your advisor for details and explanations if you are unsure on how it might work or not work depending on different situations.
  • Retirement account values. There are a variety of different Retirement plan accounts you or your partner/spouse may have contributed to. Common examples include 401k’s and IRA’s. Once you have access all of these for you and your spouse, including any joint accounts, determine the current value of these. Being educated on these processes can help you make more informed decisions and work in planning for tax avoidance.
  • Real Estate. There is reasonable uncertainty when trying to determine a definite value on real estate but there are real estate websites that can offer fair market estimates and give you values on surrounding properties. You might also access your property tax bill for the current estimate on your property. Real Estate should be treated like any other asset, if there are outstanding loans or payments due on notes of any kind like mortgages, then the balances of such owed should be listed as a liability.
  • Personal Effects: jewelry and object valuables including cars, antiques, artwork, boats, etc. Take all steps possible to verify the current value of the item, considering length of ownership, use or mileage added or any damage accrued. 
  • Liabilities are an example of debts or other owed monies, that your Estate Plan will specifically account for to avoid your relatives, partner or spouse, from having to pay for personally.  Your plan will ensure there is a system in place for paying off these debts from within your own estate to not burden your family with them personally.
  • Any partner or spouse should create their own calculation and any joint accounts or holdings should be added to the list.

Plan Ahead Today

Here is a complimentary resource to get you started – download our Estate Planning Workbook and you will be able to keep track of your assets right inside. Just provide us with your email address and we will send it to your inbox right away.

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step 2: avoid probate with a revocable living trust.

In thinking about your families, loved ones and friend, the key is you want to “avoid probate.”  In other words, the goal and overall premise of a solidly structured estate plan, is to avoid the probate process. 

What is probate? 

Probate is a court supervised and assessed process of acquiring proper documentation of all the aspects of net worth that we listed above, making sure all debts, liabilities and taxes have been paid and finally appointing the remainder of the assets to be allocated to beneficiaries according to instructions in the Will, if there is one.

Probate is timely, and costly, and hiring a qualified Estate Planning attorney will ensure your loved ones can avoid this this arduous court process.

Estate planning and administration/probate laws were written 300+ years ago when this country was founded, and as we all know, this country was founded on the inalienable right to own land. So, property ownership and real estate is one of our largest probate assets that if not carefully planned for, will pull our estate into probate.   Moreover, three hundred years ago, no one contemplated that one day we’d be able to reach Florida and California in a few hours on a plane and that people could own several properties in multiple states.  As such, the laws dictate that our estate must go through probate in every state in which we own real estate. 

“By placing assets (such as a home, cabin or business interest) in a revocable trust, or by naming the trust as the beneficiary on non-probate accounts, such as life insurance or brokerage accounts, your assets will be distributed according to your wishes and will do so outside of probate,” explains Kiplinger.   

Probate can lead to higher estate expenses and inconvenience for your heirs.

Ancillary probate can be avoided using estate planning tools, like a family limited partnership or an LLC, but by far the greatest tool is a revocable living trust, or RLT.

Read this blog article to learn everything you need to know about managing the ownership of real property in multiple states in estate planning.

step 3: get someone in your corner and hire an estate planning attorney.

Not all lawyers are made the same! Trust me. You would not dream of going to a podiatrist for your heart and yet, so many people call up their college buddy, long lost uncle or best friend that is a lawyer and asks them to draft up a Will for them.  

First, it’s important for LGBTQ folks to have an attorney who is knowledgeable about our specific estate planning needs.  Courts are still learning how to properly recognize and respect LGBTQ+ family structures – especially as it relates to adoption so it is crucial to have attorney representation that can ensure your wishes are followed.

Also, an estate plan consists of more than just a Last Will & Testament. A Last Will and Testament is important, but the crux is also having a Revocable Living Trust. 

Every family is unique and therefore every estate plan will be unique. Your Estate Planning attorney will cater your plan to your family or life circumstance, including all the valid legal documents, procedures, wording, financial plans, and instruments. Developing a relationship with an Estate Planning attorney will allow them to understand your unique dynamics and allow for advocacy for your loved ones – partners, children, extended family, friends, pets – when the time comes.

Thinking about “end of life” decisions is not something that people naturally want to do so it is necessary to retain an experienced LGBTQ Estate Planning attorney that can represent your wishes.

step 4: choose your trusted “people”

A fiduciary is someone you designate to carry out your wishes as outlined in your LGBTQ estate plan.  They will hold a lot of responsibilities and should be chosen with care. You can have one fiduciary, or you can have multiple co-fiduciaries.

Be sure to select someone who can properly carry out your wishes. If your fiduciary does a bad job, or simply cannot serve the role properly, your beneficiaries will encounter a delay in receiving their inheritance. 

It is important that you pick different people or institutions for distinct roles. For example, you can have two people and an institution managing finances, while another person takes care of health care decisions

There are a lot of different issues your fiduciaries will have to manage. Overall, you need to choose these people wisely. Choose people you trust to handle the job with care.

step 5: review and update your plan regularly 

Day in and day out, things will happen to you and your loved ones that will have a direct impact on your estate plan. You will need to be aware and keep on top of your plan to ensure that it will still work the way you expect it to work as the years pass and things change in your life

Although the plan may seem perfect for you and your loved ones in the present moment, you have no idea what will happen tomorrow, next week, next month, or next year. As time passes, things in your life will change and as such, you need to stay on top of your estate plan:

Examples of life changes that impact your estate plan:

  • You could get married or divorced
  • Have or adopt children
  • Buy or sell business
  • Retire
  • Move across the state or country
  • Win the lottery
  • Lose your spouse or another loved one due to an illness or injury
  • Inherit a small fortune from a family member or a friend
  • Legislatures can change laws surrounding estate tax and gift tax laws

LGBTQ Estate planning is not a one-shot deal, it is a life-long process.  Just like the adage, “plans are meant to change” and so is your estate plan.  

You need to update your estate plan as your life evolves and as the laws impacting it change.


Life is not a dress rehearsal – this life is the one that you have. You can leave a legacy with a properly constructed estate plan and pass your assets on to loved ones, friends, family, and charities. 

When creating an estate planning strategy, it’s important to have an experienced Estate Planning Attorney in your corner that understands your state’s laws and can help create an estate plan to effectuate your wishes.

Plan Ahead Today

Here is a complimentary resource to get you started – download our Estate Planning Workbook and you will be able to keep track of your assets right inside. Just provide us with your email address and we will send it to your inbox right away.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.