Marriage equality or not, there are certain documents every LGBTQ couple should have. Here is the list in no particular order. Please note, I only play a lawyer on television—seriously, I’m a CPA not a lawyer—so talk to your attorney about what documents are right for you and your family.
1. Cohabitation Agreement
Why you need it: You’re unmarried and living together and well, sometimes things don’t work out as planned.
A couple choosing to live together, but remain unmarried usually creates this document. It’s basically as a combination of a prenuptial agreement and a partnership agreement. This document can help prevent matters that may otherwise result in litigation by allowing each party to stipulate what property belongs exclusively to them (normally owned prior to the long-term committed relationship) and how jointly owned property would be disposed of upon a breakup, including how to deal with debt relating to those jointly owned assets. Traditionally this document would also address how living expenses are shared and even who gets custody of pets.
2. Hospital Visitation Agreement
Why you need it: Because bigoted people suck and you need to ensure you can visit your significant other or friend in an emergency no matter what.
This document provides a list of who is legally allowed to visit a patient in a hospital or medical facility. Since unmarried couples are not considered legal “family” it is especially important to have this document. Remember to have one even if you are married for when you travel to states that may not recognize your marriage.
3. HIPAA Release
Why you need it: Because HIPAA rules are strongly enforced in the medical community to protect patient privacy, LGBTQ or not.
This document will ensure your significant other can receive medical information needed to make important medical decisions (see Medical Power of Attorney) in an emergency.
4. Living Will (aka Advanced Directive)
Why you need it: Because what you want matters most.
This document provides instructions to healthcare professionals regarding your wishes about life support should you become unable to communicate or have what is deemed an “incurable illness.” You can even choose what doctor decides if you are truly incurable.
5. Medical Power of Attorney
Why you need it: Because you don’t want homophobic Uncle Jimmy making medical decisions for you when you can’t.
This document gives rights to another individual or group of individuals to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so due to being unconscious or incompetent. Your Medical POA can override your living will, so be sure you communicate your desires and feel confident the person you choose will follow your wishes regarding life support measures.
6. Durable Power of Attorney (aka Financial Power of Attorney)
Why you need it: Because Sh*t happens.
This document can give narrow or broad powers to another individual should you be unavailable or become unable to attend to your assets. The laws about DPOA vary from state to state so be careful if you recently moved or plan on traveling a lot.
Why you need it: Because you don’t want homophobic family member living off of the estate you built to share with your partner.
This document appoints an executor of your estate and communicates your wishes regarding the disposition of your assets and how expenses should be paid. It can also create trusts and provide burial instructions.
Why you need them: Because your financial world is more complex. You have special situations that need more than a will…and you want to avoid probate.
There are a variety of trusts types used for several reasons. Every trust designates a trustee to assure the assets placed in trust are distributed based on your wishes. The trust document will also name a beneficiary who will receive income or assets during the Trust lifetime.
9. Pet Directive
Why you need it: Because you want to ensure Fido and Sylvester are taken care of.
This document protects your furry friends if you predecease them. You can direct who your pet would live with upon your demise and even create a trust that provides financially for the care of your pet during its lifetime.