4. Designate her a POD beneficiary. A number of states have payable-on-death (POD) laws. If you die without a will, intestacy laws do not apply to you and Sally. A POD beneficiary designation lets you transfer investments and bank accounts at death without probate. It's free and easy. Ask your banker and broker.
5. Make a will. If you own your house jointly, don't assume that your partner will automatically receive it if you die. A greedy relative or a homophobic judge may block your intentions. A will and/or a revocable living trust confirming your intentions can help protect your family
6. Share child custody. Since you have a daughter, the best protection is two legal parents. As of now, seventeen states allow second-parent adoptions. If your state isn't one of them or you can't move to adopt in another state, consider a joint custody agreement. It's not as good, but it helps. Contact the National Center for Lesbian Rights at www.nclrights.org for guidance when it comes to children and your rights.
7. Review your disability insurance. More homes are lost to disability than death. Most group plans cover you up to 66 2/3% of your income. You can increase this to 75%-80% by purchasing additional disability insurance. Do a budget and see how much you will need, then ask how will you manage on one income for 2 to 5 years or longer. Don't forget to set money aside for retirement and college education during disability.
8. Consider life insurance. Life insurance products today offer tax-deferred accumulation in mutual fund type investments. Consider using a variable life or variable universal life policy to help save for Margaret Anne's college while protecting both of you.
The best overall strategy is to do a financial plan, together, addressing your long-term goals and asking the difficult what if questions. Remember what Eisenhower said when he was Supreme Allied Commander: "Planning is everything, the plan is nothing."
Harold Lustig CLU, ChFC has been a financial advisor for over 20 years. Ballantine Books will publish his book Four Steps to Financial Security for Lesbian and Gay Couples in June. Lustig is an independent financial advisor in San Francisco affiliated with Multi-Financial Securities in Denver, CO. He also speaks and writes on how to achieve financial security.