As of the last census there are approximately 15,368 same-sex couples living in Michigan, but this State has still not recognized same-sex marriages and the benefits that come along with such a marriage. Along with tax benefits for married couples, there are many default rules in the law that recognize and give preference to the spouse. These default rules include certain property guarantees and rights, as well as a power to make certain life and financial decisions during death or incapacity of the other spouse. Without proper planning, these rights and powers are not available to same-sex couples for the sole reason that Michigan does not recognize their marriage or partnership. HOWEVER, there are certain legal mechanisms that non-married couples should consider as they share their lives together.
Sadly, many couples forget or put off seeking legal counsel until it is too late. With the proper consultation of an Estate Planning Attorney, many of the benefits of marriage can be achieved. Assets and your estate can be controlled by a Trust or a Will; more commonly in an effort to avoid probate costs clients will choose a Trust to represent their last wishes. A General Power of Attorney documents and a Durable Power of Attorney for the Healthcare Patient Advocate can help carry out your wishes while you are incapacitated and unable to make decisions for yourself. Persons who do not have these documents must go through a messy court process of establishing other protection mechanisms when a loved one becomes incapacitated, either temporarily or permanently.
Without the proper legal documents a person may find that members of their family are appointed to a position to make financial and life decisions during their incapacity. Often times with same-sex couples, these default rules are contrary to the intent of the incapacitated party and can result in messy legal battles. This is why it is important to contact an Estate Planning Attorney to avoid these pitfalls, because although the State doesn’t recognize your relationship, the courts will with the proper legal documents.