Domestic partnerships in Arizona aren’t recognized by state law, which makes estate planning for gay couples difficult. However, planning for the distribution of your assets after your death is important. And through proper planning with a knowledgeable family law attorney, you can make sure your post-mortem wishes are carried out.
Important things to consider in estate planning, for domestic partners and traditional partners alike, include making sure you have an up-to-date will, directives for your end of life care, and considering establishing a trust in which to place the ownership of all your assets.
You may wish to discuss domestic partnership agreements with attorneys practicing family law. Domestic partnership agreements are legal papers that outline which partner owns which assets and who would be responsible for any debt if the partners separated. Domestic partnership agreements are almost like prenuptial agreements for same sex couples.
The more you think about estate planning for domestic partnerships in Arizona before your death, the simpler it will be. The better you organize your affairs to ease the transfer of assets to your domestic partner, the greater likelihood that things will go as you planned.
To make certain that your domestic partner will receive all the assets you intend him or her to, you may want to talk with an AZ family law attorney about setting up a trust that names your significant other as the beneficiary of your assets.
Trusts help you avoid probate, which is the court process of your assets being transferred over to your heirs after your death. Probate opens the door for other people in your family to contest the transfer of your assets to your domestic partner. During probate in AZ, all potential heirs must receive notification, and they are permitted to contest the terms of your will.
Through estate planning, you can create a trust while you’re still alive that honors your domestic partnership agreements in spirit. Everything you own, from houses to cars to money in bank accounts, can be owned by the trust. An attorney practicing family law can help you set the trust up so that you own your assets as a trustee of the trust, but that the trust will transfer ownership to your domestic partnership in Arizona other after your death.
Besides personal assets, some 401(k) accounts allow domestic partners to leave each other the funds. Requirements vary by plan, and an experienced Arizona family law attorney will help you determine your options.
When planning for your end of life, also think about end of life care. A health care power of attorney and a living will that state your wishes and give your significant other the power to make those decisions will help ensure that your wishes are carried out. Without these important documents, your significant other may not be involved in making these important decisions since AZ doesn’t recognize domestic partnership agreements.
Estate planning is very important, no matter if you have a domestic partnership agreement or not. Deciding whom to leave the assets for which you worked your entire life is a big decision, and proper planning will help ensure that your domestic partner doesn’t have to fight for them after you are gone.