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The U.S. Supreme Court recently heard not one, but two cases that may have important implications for same-sex partners in Illinois. One case involves the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which blocks legally married same-sex couples from many federal benefits that straight couples enjoy. The other case concerns California’s Proposition 8, banning same-sex marriage.

While the importance of these issues is clear, how the Court will handle them is anything but. That, however, has not stopped pundits from guessing. These experts generally expect the Court to shy away from imposing a nationwide rule. Instead, the Court may prefer to simply strike down DOMA and affirm a lower court decision to invalidate Prop 8. Both would be victories, but not the home run some might have hoped for.

Fortunately, while the Court likely will stop short of making same-sex marriage a right, many states continue to push forward. In fact, Illinois and a host of other states have legislative efforts to legalize same-sex marriage underway.

Until each state fully recognizes same-sex marriage though, same-sex couples in Illinois need to take more care than traditional couples do. That is because they do not have the same estate planning protections as traditional couples.

To remedy that, same-sex couples should do four things. First, give your partner power of attorney to make important health care and financial decisions. Second, draft property planning documents. If you pass without one, your property will not go to your partner. Third, create a will or trust. This is doubly important for couples with children. Finally, have a life partnership agreement. A life partnership agreement spells out what happens in case your partner and you separate.

Source: Huffington Post, “Gay Marriage Debate To Continue After Supreme Court Rulings,” David Crary, March 28, 2013