There are some benefits that heterosexual couples get to take advantage of -- often without even thinking about them. These benefits often include financial advantages and decision making powers. However, the same is not true for the estimated 900,000 same sex couples in the United States. While Illinois does recognize civil unions, theses Illinois laws will not protect couples when they travel outside of the state.
Life partner agreements are a start to help same sex couples plan for the unexpected. These plans allow couples to determine issues like child custody, division of property and other issues in case the relationship between the couple dissolves.
However, even with a life partner agreement, other planning tools are necessary for same sex couples so that they can receive as many benefits as possible. It is especially important to plan for retirement and the unexpected death of one partner.
Retirement benefits may not automatically transfer from one partner to the other. With the help of experienced professionals, estate-planning and tax planning tools, same sex couples can ensure that both partners will be taken care of. These tools, like using an inherited IRA instead of a more traditional 401(k), can make retirement benefits transfer from one partner to the other after a death.
Furthermore, tools like a power of attorney or advanced healthcare directives can help to make sure that a partner is able to make end of life or other important decisions.
Even though President Obama has come out in support of gay marriage, same sex partners still need to think about, and plan for the future in order to protect their financial assets. These decisions could make a significant difference in a time of need.
Source: Investment News, "Gay spouses struggle to claim benefits," Liz Skinner, May 27, 2012