Essential Legal Documents for Unmarried Same-Sex Couples

Because unmarried same-sex couples are legal “strangers”, it is essential to have certain legal documents to protect each person’s interests and rights:

  • Domestic partnership agreement
  • Advance Medical Directive
  • Living Will
  • Durable Power of Attorney for finances
  • Co-parenting agreement (if no adoption by second parent)
  • Wills
  • Trusts
  • Nomination of guardian for adult and minor child
  • HIPPA (Privacy Law) authorization
  • Authorization for disposition of remains and funeral arrangements

These documents create the core of planning for unmarried same-sex couples. 

Additionally, there might be estate or gift tax issues facing unmarried couples who cannot avail themselves to favorable tax treatment for married couples.

Call the Law Offices of Debra G. Simms at 386.256.4882 to learn more.

This blog post is not case-specific and is provided only for educational purposes and is not intended to provide specific legal advice. Blog topics may or may not be updated and entries may be out-of-date at the time you view them

Same-Sex Couples (unmarried) Are Legal Strangers

Unmarried same-sex couples need to protect themselves and their partners from interference by other people, including family members.  Here is a partial list of the areas in which unmarried same-sex couples are treated as legal strangers:

  • Burial or cremation
  • Claim to the body
  • Organ donation
  • Medical decisions regarding treatment and providers
  • Hospital and nursing home visitation
  • Child custody, support, and visitation
  • Wrongful death
  • Property division and support when relationship terminates
  • Inheritance

Also, Social Security and Veterans’ benefits are not payable to the survivor.  And most pension and retirement plans restrict survivor benefits to a “surviving spouse”.

If you are in unmarried same-sex partnership, it is essential to create a life and estate plan.

Call the Law Offices of Debra G. Simms at 386.256.4882 to learn more.

This blog post is not case-specific and is provided only for educational purposes and is not intended to provide specific legal advice. Blog topics may or may not be updated and entries may be out-of-date at the time you view them.

Essential Legal Documents for Unmarried Same-Sex Couples

Because unmarried same-sex couples are legal “strangers”, it is essential to have certain legal documents to protect each person’s interests and rights:

  • Domestic partnership agreement
  • Advance Medical Directive
  • Living Will
  • Durable Power of Attorney for finances
  • Co-parenting agreement (if no adoption by the second parent)
  • Wills
  • Trusts
  • Nomination of a guardian for adult and minor child
  • HIPPA (Privacy Law) authorization
  • Authorization for disposition of remains and funeral arrangements

These documents create the core of planning for unmarried same-sex couples.

Additionally, there might be estate or gift tax issues facing unmarried couples who cannot avail themselves to favorable tax treatment for married couples.

Call the Law Offices of Debra G. Simms at 386.256.4882 to learn more.

This blog post is not case-specific and is provided only for educational purposes and is not intended to provide specific legal advice. Blog topics may or may not be updated and entries may be out-of-date at the time you view them.

It is now “The Law of the Land” that same-sex marriages are legal.  This means that your same-sex spouse, unlike a same-sex partner, has certain rights to your property when you die.

In Florida, same-sex spouses are entitled to inherit a certain percentage of your estate and have rights to your homestead property even if your Will says otherwise.

For this reason, it is important to consult with an attorney before the marriage takes place.  It is possible to enter into a prenuptial agreement to avoid unintended consequences.  If the marriage has already taken place, an attorney can help you prepare a post-marriage agreement.

A same-sex marriage is a sensible time to review the arrangements you have made in all of your estate planning documents.  This is a good time to reconsider who you will appoint as your substitute decision maker for financial and health decisions if you become incapacitated.

In Florida, if you do NOT have a valid Advance Medical Directive, then your spouse will be your decision maker by default.  For some families, the new spouse is not always the best person for the job.

 

 

Family Law

Family is the most essential entity in the life of a person. Laws pertaining to this indispensable entity are crucial and sensitive. From property disputes to divorce and child custody, the metropolitan families are plagued by a plethora of issues. The American state family law is intricate and exhaustive, addressing the everyday issues interwoven with the familial ties of its residents. It is essential for its citizens to be aware of the details regarding these various issues. As we walk you through the essentials of family law, your queries about the same will be addressed.

Family law comprises of a large number of statutes that aids various legal matters called codes. The prevalence of these codes such as family code, domestic relations code, marital and children’s code is very essential for taking effective legal decisions.

Lawyers specializing in various issues like elder law, probate, guardianship and family planning are available to serve the public in Volusia County, New Smyrna Beach, Port Orange and Daytona.

Marriage-laws

With lifestyle changes, one of the major issues that is encountered by many is the dissolution of marriages. It is a sensitive issue that requires to be handled with extreme care and caution. The state marital law in America is comprehensive with provision for no-fault divorce as well as fault-divorce based on abandonment, cruelty and others. The state law also specifies that marriage is considered void if either party are not eligible, or are mentally unsound.

Child support and custody

With the rising divorce rate, related issues like child custody and support come into play. Joint and sole custody are offered to parents in case of divorce. In most scenarios, one parent is not given prevalence over the other. But under unique circumstances, the law – “Tender Years Doctrine” – enables the court to give custody to the mother. In these situations the court rules in the favor of the mother because it considers the child’s future to be more secure.  Child support is equally important if both the parents do not have legal custody. It is the minimum amount that the non-possessory parent should provide to the possessory parent to secure the child’s future. Matters like health insurance and life insurance are also to be considered under this law. Child support is usually terminated post the child turns 18.

Domestic violence

In the recent times domestic violence is no longer uncommon in society. Many are forced to deal with the evils of domestic violence. It not only includes harassment of adults but also child abuse. Protective orders are issued by the court in these scenarios. Statute laws are also available that enable law enforcement agencies to ensure that court orders are being followed. Laws are also available that enable medical professionals to report domestic violence to authorities. Each state has specific protocol to deal with child abuse and neglect.

Estate planning

Irrespective of being wealthy or poor, planning about one’s property is of paramount importance. Various tools like wills, trusts, powers of attorney, healthcare directive, living wills,  unmarried or same sex partner planning and others are available to safeguard one’s rights.

Elder-law

Old age and disability necessitates the existence of the Elder law. Elder-law -planning, helps people deal with various problems regarding property management. Issues such as the status of assets if one of the spouses require long term care or is incapacitated and others are dealt with. These laws help the old and those dealing with disabilities effectively manage their property issues.

Family law is a state issue. The codes and statutes are unique to every state in America. It is essential for every citizen to be aware of these various laws to enrich their quality of life.

To contact attorney Debra G. Simms, P.A. in Port Orange or New Smyrna Beach, FL please call 877.447.4667.

On December 12th, Orlando’s City Council voted to enact Central Florida’s first domestic partner registry.  This is an historic event for Orlando as it the first time that families – gay or straight – will be able to record their relationship in a government database. The registry opens on Jan. 12th.  For a $30 fee registered couples will have some of the same rights that married people take for granted: the ability to visit one another in the hospital or jail, to make health care decisions for an incapacitated partner, and to make funeral plans.

The registry applies only to hospitals, funeral homes and other institutions located within the city limits, but couples who live outside the city are free to register. Orange County is considering bringing forward similar legislation that would apply countywide.

The registry is also being touted as good for business.  Proponents have said the registry will make it easier for companies to transfer and hire LGBT employees from cities that have better diviersity practices in place.
A cautionary note:  The registry does not cover all areas where gay and straight unmarried couples may need to make decisions for one another or be recognized as the proper legal authority.  The registry is not a substitute for a well thought-out and drafted estate plan, durable power of attorney, advance health care directive and living will.
The Law Office of Debra G. Simms offers consultations for estate planning matters.
Call today and ask for our year end web special of 20% off our basic estate planning package.  Book your appointment by January 30th to receive this special offer.
Attorney at Law
Orlando
Toll free: 1-877-447-4667
David Santamaria Vosburg of Lakeland, Florida seems to find nothing unusual in having adoptive parents he calls “Dad” and “Daddy.”

Randy Vosburg and Nick Santamaria are the first same-sex couple in Polk County to adopt a child from Florida’s foster-care system.  Their adoption of David became official Nov. 18th, National Adoption Day.

For years, Florida law barred same-sex couples from adopting children in state custody, but that changed in September, 2010, when an appeals court ruled the law unconstitutional and then-Gov. Charlie Crist decided not to challenge the ruling.

Vosburg and Santamaria were legally married Nov. 12, 2010, in Washington, D.C.  Even before the wedding ceremony, they discussed their hopes of having a family.

They checked with private adoption agencies but were discouraged by the cost. In addition, many private agencies have religious orientations and won’t consider same-sex couples as parents, said Emily Hecht-McGowan, director of public policy for the Family Equality Council, which advocates same-sex marriage and adoptions. Vosburg and Santamaria considered moving to a state with more favorable policies, but Vosburg has strong ties to Lakeland and the couple live in Vosburg’s childhood home.

Thankfully, Randy and Nick were able to stay in Florida and make a home for David.  The Florida courts and Govenor Crist made it all legal.

If you have any questions about same-sex adoption, please contact the Law Office of Debra G. Simms.

Last month, New York took the plunge and legalized same sex marriages. At the stroke of midnight on Sunday, July 24, same sex couples were allowed to make their relationships “official” as weddings were held in city offices and at Niagara Falls. While government offices are not usually open on Sundays, this day was an exception, and by the end of it hundreds of couples had said their vows.

The legalization of gay marriage in New York, while only technically affecting those in the state, really has nationwide impact for those in same sex couplings. The legalization of same sex marriage in New York doubled the number of Americans who live in a state where gay and lesbian couples can wed. Gay-rights advocates are setting their sights on Maryland to be the next state to legalize same sex marriage, but they have a long way to go there and around the rest of the country.

Currently, in the majority of states, same-sex partnerships are generally overlooked by the law. Only six states, now including New York, have legalized gay marriage, and only a handful more include any form of freedom of religion and fair marriage acts, which allow those involved in a same-sex civil union to receive rights similar to those of married couples. Those in other states have to be aware of their rights when it comes to day to day worries – anything from child custody, support and visitation, second-parent adoptions, school related issues, estate planning, wills, powers of attorney, and partnership agreements. In all cases, it is in the couple’s best interest to speak to a lawyer in order to figure out where they stand on these issues.

One area where we might see rapid growth is in consumer issues.  (Read my lips-it’s the economy, stupid!)  Insurance company Esurance is an early adopter to the civil union changes when considering car insurance. Already, its company offers savings to couples in California, Oregon, and Washington, and with the Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act that went into effect in June 2011, it offered couples in that state the opportunity to sign up for the “married” car insurance rate instead of just the “single” one if they are in a civil union, giving them an average of 10% savings on their annual insurance bills.

If Esurance can do it, why not other companies? It will be interesting to see in the future what problems are alleviated for same sex couples when considering the issues they have faced with not only insurance but also with other legal battles.
 
The Law Office of Debra G. Simms offers consultations to same-sex couples for a variety of issues, including property agreements, custody, wills, powers of attorney and medical directives.  We now also offer Small Business Planning for Domestic Partners.
Call for a consultation to know your rights.
Altamonte Springs, FL
Toll free:-1-877-4667
Last month I wrote about a Polk County gay couple who adopted a child in Florida now that an appellate court has ruled that the Florida statute banning homosexuals from adopting is unconstitutional.
Today I represented a couple in a gay adoption case in Seminole County, Florida and it was one of the happiest cases I have ever had.

Christy and Grace

My clients, partners Christy and Grace,  first came to see me a few years ago for estate planning.  Christy was pregnant, through artificial insemination with an anonymous donor, and both were concerned about many issues including who would get custody of the child if something happened to Christy.  The couple was also worried that their child would not be able to inherit from Grace or receive her government and veteran’s pension benefits.  Their worries were well founded.  Some of their concerns could be addressed in estate planning documents, but many could not.
As of today, Grace is the adoptive parent of their 4 year old son and has the same rights and responsibilities as Christy.  No one can ever take him away from her.  And their son will have all the benefits of a biological child when it comes to Grace’s governmental benefits, health insurance, etc.
It was a happy day in court with tears and smiles and lots of photo’s.  Grace and Christy were proud mama’s and I was a proud lawyer – proud of my clients, our judge, our judicial system, and the State of Florida.

To contact attorney Debra G. Simms, P.A. in Port Orange or New Smyrna Beach, FL please call 877.447.4667.

The Respect for Marriage Act repeals the Defense of Marriage Act and allows the federal government in the United States to provide benefits to couples in same sex marriages, although it does not compel individual states to recognize same sex marriages. It is supported by the Religious Action Center, Catholics for Equality, Change.org, and Human Rights Campaign among others.
In recent Florida news, the Miami GOP Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen joined the ranks of supporters for the Respect for Marriage Act. As the first and only GOP congressperson to co-sponsor the act, she has received both support and backlash from a number of organizations. The Christian Family Coalition is one of those speaking out against her decision, claiming that her support of the act could be viewed as deception to her constituents, donors, and volunteers. She was also attacked in a letter from the National Organization for Marriage, saying they were disappointed and deeply concerned by her abandonment of “traditional Republican principles of marriage, family, and democratic self government.”
On the flip side, there are far more organizations who are applauding her decision. She has been supported in her decision by both the Log Cabin Republicans, and the Freedom to Marry Group Equality Florida, a group that works to secure equality for Florida’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community, saying that Ros-Lehtinen is a long time supporter. She was also a 2010 Voice for Equality Award honoree for her work to end Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and was a founder of the Congressional LGBT Equity Caucus.

What effect could the Respect for Marriage Act have on today’s same sex couples?

Let’s take a look at the Census update on  Same-Sex Couples:

Recently, the United States Census Bureau put an official number on the amount of same-sex couples who are married in the United States – 131,729. This is the first time an official number has been calculated of those who are married and not just in domestic partnerships, which makes it seem like there is a decrease over past inclusive numbers. In Florida, the number of married same-sex couples reached almost 6,800, with 3,585 married male couples and 3,199 married female couples. The US Census Bureau also estimated that there are around 48,500 same sex couples total – both married and unmarried – in the state of Florida, and approximately 515,000 in the United States total.
The numbers were calculated based on two questions from the Census form: one asking the relationship to householder and another asking the sex of each person. It is possible that some opposite-sex married or unmarried couples filled out their forms wrong which could account for some inflation of the numbers, but they should hold fairly accurate as they have been reviewed and approved by three outside experts at UCLA and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
These figures were among the most highly anticipated statistics collected with the 2010 census. While this is the third census that has recognized same-sex couples, it is the first census since gay marriage became legal. Although not yet legal in Florida, it is legal in six states, and it is important that this portion of the population be accounted for.

To contact attorney Debra G. Simms, P.A. in Port Orange or New Smyrna Beach, FL please call 877.447.4667.

Contact Us

Port Orange Office:
Prestige Executive Center
823 Dunlawton Ave. Unit C
Port Orange, FL 32129
Local: 386.256.4882
Toll Free: 877.447.4667
New Smyrna Beach Office:
629 N. Dixie HWY
New Smyrna Beach, FL 32168
Local: 386.256.4882
Toll Free: 877.447.4667