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The Story of Joy & Beth

February 12th, 2010

Joy and her partner, Beth, were together for six years living in Decatur, Georgia sharing everything from home, a business and expenses. In a tragic accident Beth passed away.

Beth fell off a ladder and was unconscious by the time she made it to the hospital, unable to communicate her wishes to family members. Joy was told to leave the hospital room because it was time for family members to make decisions about Beth’s care.

Since Joy and her partner did not have any legal documents, Joy had no legal rights to make any decisions on behalf of her partner. Joy was not allowed to visit Beth, since many states only allow legal spouses or family members - not lifelong partners. Beth’s family highly disapproved of her relationship with Joy and told the hospital staff not to admit Joy.

Joy was finally able to visit Beth after she pleaded with Beth’s family for a chance to see her partner of six years. Joy was not allowed to be part of any decision-making regarding Beth’s treatments even though Joy knew Beth’s preference for life-saving procedures, she could not instruct the medical staff, as she had no legal authority.

After Beth passed away, Joy was kicked out of her home. Without a will and Joy’s name was not on the deed, Beth’s family took everything.

If you die without making a valid will, you leave what is known as” intestacy”. Each state has different laws, but follow the same general pattern of how your estate is distributed, first to a legal spouse, children and biological family. The state of Georgia bans same-sex couple marriage. According to Georgia’s law, Joy’s relationship to Beth was not recognized.

Joy’s message to the LGBT community, “Please get legal documentation to protect your wishes. Families can be the worse and you never know until something bad happens. Losing your partner is hard enough to deal with but not being able to be there in her time of need was devastating. Do not keep putting off preparing legal documents.”

LegalOut, thanks Joy for her courage in talking to us about her experience. Joy is determined to share her experiences with the LGBT community in hopes she can help others avoid the similar situation she faced without legal documents.

If you anticipate a will challenge or hostile family members, you need to take even greater precautions in drafting your will. It is far less expensive, financially and emotionally; to plan now to make sure that your property goes to the people or charities you choose. At a minimum, any basic estate plan should include the following documents: Hospital Visitation Authorization, Living Will, Health Care Power of Attorney, Last Will and Testament, and Power of Attorney.

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