rightrailEstate planning for domestic partners focuses on making it simple for the surviving partner.

As you might expect, your partner will be named to manage your assets if you cannot. But you’ll also need to designate someone else in the event your partner is unable.

The instructions in your Living Trust will make your assets available to your partner for all expenses. Your instructions will also say who is to benefit from your assets if your partner doesn’t use them completely, including any children you may have. If you don’t have children, then you’ll give us instructions about who should benefit after your partner. Your Trust can also make cash gifts to other people and charities if you wish.

Domestic partners, even those who got married in 2008, are treated as legal strangers under federal tax law. The IRS tries to tax assets owned jointly by “strangers” twice, so we discourage you from creating a joint Trust. Instead, we recommend each partner have a separate Trust that mirrors the other’s.

Your Last Will is meant to make sure all your assets are eventually governed by the rules of your Trust. If you have young children, you’ll name guardians for them in your Last Will.

In your Statutory Power of Attorney, you’ll authorize your partner to manage assets that can’t be transferred directly into your Trust, such as retirement plans.  You’ll also identify someone else to take this job if your partner is unable.

Finally, in your Advance Health Care Directive, you’ll identify the people who will make health care decisions if you can’t, and you’ll give them instructions about the types of medical treatments you want – or do not want.  Your partner will be named for this, but you’ll also identify someone else to act if your partner can’t.

You can do this. Make a plan.