Same Sex Marriage in Washington State

Prior to December 6, 2012, estate planning for same sex partners was a tricky business. Without specific estate planning documents, the default results for married couples did not apply to same sex partners. For example, a long term committed same sex partner would not inherit from their partner if the partner were to die without a will. However, a married person would inherit automatically even if the marriage was only an hour long. That is because the law in Washington is that if a person dies without a will and the state recognizes that they are married, their spouse will inherit their community property and separate property interests. (Exceptions to intestate succession apply in the case of children from another spouse.)

On December 6, 2012, same sex marriages were legalized in Washington State. What does this mean for same sex couples?

Same sex couples who are legally married share all of the privileges of a traditional couple. This is true whether we are discussing married filing jointly tax returns or inheritances.

Does this mean that same sex couples do not need estate planning documents? Of course not!

But that is what you would expect an estate planning attorney to say – I know. Seriously, everyone should have a will and power of attorney AT THE LEAST. This is true whether you are gay or straight. A will allows you to provide for your family, friends or charity. A will allows for you to make provisions for the future of minors that you want to educate. A will allows you to name the person who will care for your children should something catastrophic happen to you and your spouse. And a will lets those you love know your wishes regarding what you own.

I am also a strong advocate for everyone having a durable power of attorney. I have outlined various types of powers of attorney elsewhere in this web site. But think about it this way: if you become mentally or physically incapacitated, don’t you want a say in who will make decisions for you? Perhaps your spouse is the perfect person to make medical decisions for you, but someone else is the perfect person to make financial decisions. Perhaps your children are better able to help in such a situation due to your spouse’s age or illness. By having a durable power of attorney in place, you will be taking care of yourself in advance of becoming incompetent. And once you regain your competency, your durable power of attorney will simply go back into waiting just in case you ever need it again.

I have been an attorney in Spokane Valley, Washington since 1990. Every couple I have ever drafted an estate plan for has been unique and had their own special concerns and considerations. Although the names of the estate planning documents are the same, the manner in which they are drafted certainly are not. My goal is to work with you to determine the absolutely best way to meet your estate planning goals. I never treat any client as someone I can fit into a specific mold. Together we can develop a specific estate plan that will take some of the worry out of that unknown future that we all face.

I look forward to meeting you and developing your estate plan.

TRUNKENBOLZ | ROHR (509) 928-4100

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