My client asks: "My partner, Sally, is moving into my house. I was planning to put her name on the title so that if anything happens to me, she and my daughter Margaret Anne are protected. Is this the smartest way for me to protect my family? What if I get sick, can she be my advocate?"
Let's look at legal and financial tools that will really help protect your family.
1. Make a property agreement. If you put your partner on the title, you will be making an irrevocable gift. What if you break up? How will you get your property back? A smarter strategy is to do a property agreement. In it you can address every what if question. Relationships are about communication, so use the agreement to get to know each other.
2. Make a cohabitation agreement. If you are going to mix money, share assets, financially support each other and incur debt together, a living-together agreement will help. Family law varies from state to state; an attorney who specializes in gay family issues in your community is the person to talk to.
3. Give her durable power of attorney. If you are hospitalized, Sally cannot make any medical decisions for you unless you are prepared for a medical emergency. A properly drafted durable power of attorney for your state will enable each of you to make binding decisions for the other one.
When you do a DPA, make sure it covers both health care and financial decisions. Keep it in your glove compartment and anywhere you go frequently. Do one for Margaret Anne.
Every lesbian, gay, straight, single or married person should have one. Again, since laws differ and documents have different names, it is critical that you work with an attorney in your jurisdiction who knows same-sex and unmarried family law.