On November 14, 2012

A recent poll of randomly selected households across Colorado found that the majority of the state’s residents support some form of legal recognition of same-sex relationships, either through marriage or civil unions. Residents over 65 were less likely than younger Coloradans to support gay marriage, but almost half support civil unions. Voters under 34 were the most supportive of same-sex marriage, at 40 percent. Why do these opinions matter? Because in Colorado, voters have a say in the rights of same-sex couples, and these rights have a powerful impact on not just people’s lives, but their deaths.

When someone dies in Colorado without a will, they are considered intestate and their estate — that is, everything they own outright — goes into probate. If you think of a will as a plan for what the state should do with your property, imagine what happens when a probate court has no plan to go on. In this case, it puts its own plan into place. For example, if you’re married, the majority of your estate will be passed to your spouse. If not, your estate will go to your parents, if one or both are still living.

This presents an issue for same-sex couples who want to leave their property to each other. It’s perfectly legal for such couples to do this, but if you fail to complete a will and specify in it that you want your property left to your partner, your wishes won’t be granted by a probate judge. Instead, your assets will go to your parents, or if you have no surviving parents, your siblings. And even if your brothers and sisters have a good relationship with your partner, you simply cannot assume they’ll simply hand over your property and assets because you failed to plan for this scenario.

Firming up your end-of-life plans isn’t any more difficult for same-sex couples than it is for heterosexual spouses; you simply need to think about your needs and wishes, communicate them and make them official. An attorney who handles wills and other estate planning tools can take you through the necessary steps to ensure your plans are properly carried out.

Source: Daily Camera, “Poll: Majority of Coloradans back legal recognition for gay couples,” Lynn Bartels, Nov. 3, 2012

Categories: Estate Planning

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