Tools for Parents

Protecting your family in times of crisis can be difficult, particularly for families with parents who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT). Because relationship and parental recognition laws vary drastically from state to state, LGBT families oftentimes lack the ability to  create legal relationships with one another, leaving spouses, partners, and parents vulnerable. These hurdles may obstruct your family’s ability to inherit, make medical decisions for you, or visit you in the hospital. It is necessary for LGBT people to take extra precautions to ensure our families are as protected and secure as possible. 

Below is a list of some key legal documents that can help you protect your family.
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Disclaimer: You should always consult a lawyer with expertise in LGBT family law when creating legal documents to protect yourself and your family. A lawyer can ensure that the documents are written and executed to the fullest extent of the law in your state.  Please remember that lawyers who advertise in LGBT publications or on LGBT websites may not have expertise in LGBT family law issues.  It is important to ask specific questions before hiring an attorney to ensure complete competency and knowledge about legal issues that arise for LGBT individuals, couples and families.


Medical Directives

In the event you are seriously injured or incapacitated, you may be unable to make medical decisions about your health care. In most states, if you do not provide written directions, health care professionals will turn to your legal relatives to make these decisions. In most states, your same-sex partner is not considered a legal relative.  We recommend that, at minimum, you have the following Medical Directives to ensure that your loved ones can make the medical decisions that you may need:

  • Living Will: A living will is a document that spells out which measures you want to be taken when you are no longer capable of communicating your choices regarding prolonging your life and other medical care issues.

  • Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare/Healthcare Proxy: Even when you have specified your wishes in a living will, there may be some situations in which healthcare providers need additional information in order to decide which health care actions should be taken. A durable power of attorney or a “healthcare proxy” allows you to designate another person to make medical decisions about your care if you are unable to make them for yourself. Unless you have designated someone to make these decisions for you, your healthcare providers may turn to your legal relatives to make these decisions.

  • Authorization to Consent to Medical Treatment of a Minor Child: This document allows a child’s legal parent to designate someone other than a legal parent to make medical decisions for a minor child.  Because many states do not allow both members of a same-sex couple to create a legal relationship to their children, this document is important to ensure that both parents can make emergency medical decisions for a child.  

  • Hospital Visitation Directive: A hospital visitation directive allows you to designate who you would like to be able to visit you in the hospital if you are unable to communicate.  Only a handful of states provide an automatic right of same-sex partners to visit each other in the hospital. Regardless of where you live, this document will allow you to visit your same-sex partner/spouse even if you are hospitalized in another state.

Will

If you die without a will, your property is automatically distributed to your legal heirs as defined by the laws of your state. With the exception of a handful of states, a same-sex partner is NOT considered a legal heir and therefore, is not entitled to inherit your property if you die without a will. Additionally, if you live in a state where you are unable to create a legal relationship with your children, they will not inherit anything unless you have expressly named them in your will.

Nomination of a Guardian

If a child’s legal parent dies or becomes unable to care for the minor child, a nomination of a guardian document allows the legal parent to assign custody and care of the minor child to another adult. While a nomination is not legally binding, most courts will give great deference to a nomination of guardianship in cases where there is no other legally recognized parent. This document is especially critical for same-sex couples where one of the parents is unable to create a legal relationship with the couple’s children.

Parenting Agreement

Especially important in states where one member of a same-sex couple is unable to create a legal relationship with their child, a parenting agreement can explicitly spell out the rights and obligations of each parent. A parenting agreement can ensure that, in the event of a break-up, both parents and the child are protected.

Domestic Partnership Agreement

In states without marriage equality, civil unions or comprehensive domestic partnerships, same-sex couples have no recognition under the law.  A partnership agreement, while not necessarily legally binding, provides the ability for same-sex couples to spell out the expectations, terms, conditions and intent of their relationship, within the limits of the laws of their state. Examples of the issues outlined in Domestic Partnership Agreements are property ownership (or co-ownership), debt obligations and support obligations. 

General Power of Attorney

A general power of attorney allows you to designate someone to handle your financial matters should you become incapacitated. 


Disclaimer: You should always consult a lawyer with expertise in LGBT family law when creating legal documents to protect yourself and your family. A lawyer can ensure that the documents are written and executed to the fullest extent of the law in your state.  Please remember that lawyers who advertise in LGBT publications or on LGBT websites may not have expertise in LGBT family law issues.  It is important to ask specific questions before hiring an attorney to ensure complete competency and knowledge about legal issues that arise for LGBT individuals, couples and families.


 

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Minnesota Families Click Here for Sample Forms

Tips 

● Always have copies of these forms with you, we recommend carrying electronic copies on a thumb drive attached to your keychain.

● Keep several signed original copies of the forms.

● Write with a blue pen when completing or signing forms so health care providers don’t question whether the document is an original.

● Always have original copies with you when you travel out of state.

● Keep an extra copy of your forms somewhere easy for a close friend of family member to find.

● Keep copies online on a secure server.