Same-Sex Couples Must Plan Carefully

Uncle Sam gives the best wedding presents. A Simon Pearce vase is divine, but it pales in comparison with the married filing jointly tax rates and unlimited marital estate tax deduction.

Regrettably, even though they embody the same levels of love and commitment, same-sex couples do not receive these gifts from Uncle Sam.

Financial planning for same-sex couples is rife with difficulties. Few states provide rights to same-sex couples, and among those that do, the rights are not uniform. (See below.) The federal government currently denies all marriage rights to same-sex couples, though that may soon change. Because of numerous gray areas, all such couples need financial planning, especially if they have children. Plans must make the couple’s intentions very clear in the event they are contested. They should also be revisited often to stay current with legislation.

Given the complicated variation among states, moving or traveling can be especially treacherous. If you do not live in the state where you were married or if you plan to travel extensively out of state, some key planning moves can ensure that your relationship and intentions are respected.

Generally, hospitals allow visitation rights to spouses and other family members. If the state does not recognize your relationship, your partner is not considered a family member. He or she may therefore be denied visitation rights and the ability to make medical decisions on your behalf.

To prevent this situation, execute a power of attorney, which permits your partner to act as your agent in both health and financial matters. Although it can be inconvenient, you should carry a copy when you travel. Do not assume that the arrangement will be respected in other states, particularly if it differs significantly from that state’s power of attorney forms; however, such documentation should help the healthy partner present his case to hospital staff.

States that allow same-sex marriages or that provide an equivalent often have intestate rights for surviving partners. These allow for a portion, if not all, of the deceased partner’s property to pass to the surviving partner, even if the deceased did not execute a will. However, a state that does not recognize the relationship will not have these rights. If you die without a will in one of these states, your partner will not be provided for from your estate. Your property will instead pass to your biological family based on the state’s laws.

The first defense against this is to have a will that provides for your partner and your children. Make sure your family members are aware of how you would like your property to be distributed after your death to avoid surprises and potential will contests. You may want to include positive statements as to why you choose to leave property to your partner instead of your biological family.

You can also dispose of assets outside of your will, where possible. Retirement accounts, life insurance policies and trusts pass to their beneficiaries outside of the probate courts. Titling property as jointly owned with rights of survivorship will permit the surviving partner to inherit the jointly owned property.

Your will should also make clear your intent regarding burial arrangements and that your partner should be granted possession of your remains upon your death. Typically, the deceased’s remains are given to the next of kin. If a same-sex relationship is not recognized, the surviving partner will not be deemed a family member. He or she will not be granted authority over the body and its disposition. Historically, courts have respected the deceased’s intent and therefore it is important to have support for your last wishes.

States permitting same-sex unions will usually permit non-biological parents to sign a child’s birth certificate as a parent. However, this does not necessarily provide full parental rights, especially in states where the relationship is not recognized. Adoption by the non-biological parent is a potential solution. This is particularly important in the case of a medical emergency and intestacy. Without adoption, the non-biological parent might be denied the right to make medical decisions for his or her child or to visit the child in the hospital. Should the biological parent die intestate, the non-biological parent may not be granted custody by the state. Furthermore, if the non-biological parent dies intestate, the child might not be eligible to inherit from him or her.

When executing estate-planning documents, same-sex couples have less room for error than heterosexual couples. You do not want the legitimacy of the documents to be challenged. If they are overturned, the state’s laws are unlikely to create your desired outcome. Therefore, choose a financial planner and attorney team that is familiar with the laws regarding same-sex couples. Also, your documents and plans should be reviewed often to stay current in the highly dynamic legal environment.

Divorce is difficult for any couple, regardless of sexual orientation, but it is even more so for same-sex couples. A married same-sex couple may not be able to divorce if they reside in a state that does not recognize their marriage. Furthermore, states that do recognize same-sex partnership typically have residency requirements for divorce. You can get married while on vacation in Massachusetts, but the reverse cannot be done.

In states where same-sex relationships are not respected, the split is more like dividing a business than a family. A stay-at-home partner’s contributions to the family unit might not receive the same weight when dividing assets. As unsavory as it is, it is important to plan for potential divorce. Pre- and post-nuptial agreements can make the process less painful and allow the partners to move on with their lives more quickly.

The rights of marriage dissolve with divorce, but special planning arrangements do not. In the event of a separation, same-sex partners will need to undo the extra measures they have put in place. This includes making new wills, naming new beneficiaries on retirement plans and insurance policies, and revoking health care proxies and powers of attorney. Adoption of children is permanent, and the partners will need to reach some sort of custody agreement.

With the repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy and the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act in question, the federal government’s anti-same-sex marriage stance appears to be weakening. This may encourage coordination of state laws and make planning easier. When Uncle Sam finally gives this wedding present, same-sex couples will no doubt send a most heartfelt thank-you.

State Laws Vary for Same-Sex Couples

Marriage, Domestic Partnership and Civil Unions:
A handful of states have acknowledged the inequity of separate treatment, and have provided same-sex couples with the same rights, privileges and responsibilities of heterosexual couples on the state level. Five states – Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont – and the District of Columbia permit same-sex couples to marry. Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois and New Jersey allow, or will in the next year, civil unions, which are equivalent to marriage except for the name.

Nevada, Oregon and Washington offer domestic partnerships with rights similar to those of marriage, while Maine’s and Wisconsin’s versions provide limited rights. Wisconsin’s Constitution was amended to ban any legal status that is substantially similar to marriage for same-sex couples.

California has the most complex state legislation. California allowed same-sex marriages for a few months in 2008. This ended when the state passed Proposition 8, which amended the constitution to ban future same-sex marriages but did not retroactively revoke those marriages entered into before its adoption. Therefore, California recognizes some marriages as marriages. It currently allows for a version of domestic partnerships between same-sex partners that is virtually marriage with a different name. These partnerships even come with community property rights, which automatically split ownership of certain property and income between the two partners.

Tax Status and Inter-State Recognition:
Generally, states that permit same-sex marriage or an equivalent recognize similar commitments from other states. Again, California is the most complicated, as it will only recognize marriages from other states entered into before Proposition 8 passed. Marriages performed after its adoption are recognized as having the same rights as marriages, but cannot be called marriages outright. Other legal relationships that are similar to California’s domestic partnership arrangement are also recognized.

California, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon and Vermont have also allowed same-sex partners to file joint income tax returns for 2010. In these states, same-sex couples can benefit from the wider tax brackets that married couples enjoy. However, this can be administratively burdensome, as the married filing status cannot currently be used on the federal return.

Nevada, New Hampshire and Washington do not have individual income taxes. The Delaware, Hawaii and Illinois civil union laws were not in effect for the 2010 tax year.

Maryland, New York and Rhode Island recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states, even though they do not permit them. However, none of these states permits same-sex couples to file joint tax returns.

How to Avoid Sex in a Relationship – Here’s 3 Powerful Strategies

Many young girls and even some boys want to know how to avoid sex in a relationship. If you are not aware of this, many youngsters now prefer to abstain from sex before marriage. The risk of unwanted pregnancies and the likelihood of contracting sexually transmitted diseases are deterring a lot of wise youngsters from engaging in sex before marriage. But a problem can arise when one of the partners in the relationship wants to abstain from sex while the other wants to go ahead. There is a potential for conflict here unless the person who wants to avoid sex knows how to deal with the situation. If you find yourself in similar circumstances, this article is just for you.

3 Powerful Strategies to help convince your partner to avoid sex in a relationship

1. Most youngsters do not think about the consequences of having sex before marriage. They are too immature to stop and think about things that can go awfully wrong after the sex act. The millions of teen pregnancies and the resulting abortions that take place around the globe on a daily basis happen primarily because young people don’t stop to think about the consequences of having sex before marriage. Every time you have sex, you give birth to a consequence which could be any of the following.

Nearly 50% of all youngsters between the ages of 15 and 24 indulging in sex before marriage will contract a sexually transmitted disease. This is an official finding made by the United States government. (The source of that information is given below the article). This means that every alternate couple having sex before marriage will end up having a sexually transmitted disease. The really sad thing is most young people are not aware of this alarming fact. You can use these statistics as a deterrent to avoid having sex with your partner. Show these statistics to your partner and take the decision together to abstain from sex.

2. What do you do if your partner is not convinced? It is your health and your life that is at stake. If you contract a sexually transmitted disease, will your partner look after you or pay your medical bills? In fact you need to ask yourself several important questions, and answer those questions as honestly as you possibly can. Just think about this. Can you say for sure that your partner is not infected with any kind of sexually transmitted disease? Do you have any kind of medical evidence to prove it? Do you know for sure that your partner doesn’t have sex with anyone else? Or if they have had sex with even one more individual apart from you, can you be sure that that individual is not infected? Can you really handle a pregnancy or an abortion at this age? You need to ponder over these questions and answer them truthfully. You then need to make a quality decision. The decision that you take can literally save your life.

3. Many people are deceived with the idea of “safe sex”. But in reality, there is no such thing called “safe sex”. It is just a myth. There is abundant proof that condoms do not always prevent AIDS or other sexually transmitted diseases. There is also evidence that pregnancies cannot be totally avoided with the use of pills, condoms and diaphragms. So many women still get pregnant after adopting these birth control methods. So a pregnancy can still happen, even after you have taken all these precautions. But still worse, you can end up contracting AIDS or some other life threatening disease. You need to decide whether the price you pay for a few moments of pleasure in bed has to be an unwanted pregnancy or a life-threatening disease. You can verify the statistics mentioned in this article at The United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief website.

Safe Sex Is Very Important – Here Are Some Tips!

Sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies can be greatly reduced by practicing safe sex. Even thought no method of safe sex is 100% effective, it is still much better than not using any protection. The methods of protection, while not foolproof, still greatly reduce the risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease or an unwanted pregnancy.

So, if you choose to engage in sexually activity, it’s always important to use some form of protection. The following will outline some of the options available including abstinence and monogamy, both male and female condoms, and oral contraception.

Abstinence is still the best and safest method of preventing both pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. It is 100% effective. Although it is the only foolproof method, it is not the most popular choice. The next best option if you are unwilling to practice abstinence, is to engage in sexual activities with only one person, in a monogamous relationship.

A monogamous relationship means that both you and your partner engage in sexual activity with no one but each other. While monogamy is not an effective method of birth control, it does minimize the risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases. As long as both you and your partner are free of diseases and remain committed to each other, you will remain free of diseases. Abstinence and monogamy are both highly effective safe sex methods. Abstinence is effective at preventing both pregnancy and diseases while monogamy helps to prevent diseases only.

The condom is one of the better methods available for avoiding sexually transmitted diseases. When they’re properly used they are also 97%-98% effective in preventing pregnancy. Male condoms are easily accessible in drug stores, grocery stores, and even vending machines. They are also inexpensive. There are male and female versions of the condom available. Male condoms are more popular. The male condom is a thin sheath, usually made of latex that fits over the penis and acts as a barrier to the exchange of bodily fluids during intercourse. Even if they aren’t used correctly, they are still very effective in preventing pregnancy (88%-90% effective). So even though they are effective, they are still not 100% reliable. The risk still exists, however small, of getting pregnant or contracting a sexually transmitted disease.

The female condom is a polyurethane sheath that lines the entire vagina. The closed end is inserted into the vagina and the open end remains outside the body. It’s been available only since the 1990’s and is not as readily available at the male condom. If you can find it, you will also pay more for it, since it costs more than a male condom. It is however, just as effective as the male condom in preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

There are oral contraceptives available as well that are very effective in preventing pregnancy. These however, do not protect against sexually transmitted diseases. An oral contraceptive is a pill that is taken daily which uses hormones to prevent pregnancy. If used correctly, the pill is 97-99% effective.

As with any drug, there are side effects that come along with pill usage. Most of these side effects are mild. Some side effects include weight changes, nausea, irritability and breast tenderness. Even though these aren’t severe, they can be avoided altogether. Today there are numerous varieties of pills on the market. Talk to your doctor and find out which is best for you. Again, while oral contraceptives are effective against preventing pregnancy, they do not work against contracting sexually transmitted diseases. If you are not sure that your partner is free of disease, you should consider using another form of safe sex method as a back up to prevent these diseases.

If you want to avoid pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, it is best to take all the measure you can to practice safe sex. So while abstinence is the only 100% effective method against pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, there are other options out there to explore that offer good benefits. Monogamy is effective in protection against sexually transmitted diseases, while condoms and birth control pills are effective against unwanted pregnancies.