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New Federal Hospital Visitation Regulations for LGBT go into Effect on Jan. 18, 2011

January 15th, 2011

medicalOn January 18, 2011, new hospital visitation regulations go into effect that require all hospitals participating in Medicaid and Medicare programs to permit patients to designate visitors of their choosing and prohibit discrimination in visitation based on a number of factors, including sexual orientation and gender identity.

The new regulations are a result from President Obama’s presidential memorandum in April 2010 directing the Department of Health and Human Services to develop regulations protecting hospital visitation rights.

Regulations require hospitals (from HRC’s Hospital Visitation Guide):

  • to inform each patient of his or her right to receive visitors whom he or she designates, including a domestic partner
  • to not restrict or limit visitation rights based on sexual orientation and gender identity, among other factors
  • must ensure that all visitors have full and equal visitation rights, consistent with a patient’s wishes.

To learn more visit the Human Rights Campaign Hospital Visitation Guide for LGBT Families>>

While these new federal regulations are a great step forward for LGBT hospital visitation equality it’s important to note there are other medical decision making areas that are not protected unless an individual has prepared the necessary legal documents.

Many state laws governing medical decision making defaults to biological family members or marital laws. Since there is marriage inequality in most of the U.S. LGBT individuals are not protected. Even if you are not in a committed relationship, you want to make decisions about your own life and future without unwanted intrusions from others. By planning now you can feel comfortable that you, your family and your future are taken care of exactly the way you envision.

If you want to designate a person to make health care decisions for you if you are unable to do so or state your wishes regarding the withholding or withdrawal of life-sustaining procedures under certain circumstances you will need to prepare an Advance Directive for Healthcare or Living Will.

Not planning, means letting someone else plan for you. LGBT individuals need to be proactive to ensure that their plans for the future reflect their own wishes and are not dictated by laws that do not fit your life and relationships or individuals who are not involved in your life and relationships.

Do not put off preparing legal documents as we never know what can happen. LegalOut can help you avoid putting off creating legal documents. LegalOut’s online resource center provides the LGBT community with affordable legal document solutions.  We provide easy-to-use tools for customizing your documents online, in the privacy of your own home, at your own pace and provides hundreds of do-it-yourself legal documents including living wills, domestic partnership agreements, power of attorney documents, last will and testament, and many others.

By planning now you can feel comfortable that you, your family and your future are taken care of exactly the way you envision.

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Chicago Tribune: Business Securing the future as life partners

August 20th, 2010

From the Chicago Tribune: Securing the future as life partners
If you don’t want to - or can’t - marry, it’s critical to stitch together some legal protections

By Jane Bennett Clark, Tribune Media Services
1:20 PM CDT, August 19, 2010

Julie Kurland and Marcia Diehl live in a Victorian home in Takoma Park, a leafy Maryland suburb of Washington, D.C. The couple take turns walking their dog, Cody, past the 1920s bungalows and gabled Victorians that line the streets of their neighborhood. On Sundays they wander over to the farmers market and spend the rest of the day gardening or reading on their wide front porch.

It’s a routine that befits any contented couple. But Kurland, 46, and Diehl, 56, are not married, nor would their union be recognized federally or in all but five states. And while a California court case regarding the legality of same-sex marriage winds its way through the appeals process (likely to end up before the U.S. Supreme Court), there still remains this present-day reality:

Gay couples, and straight couples who’d prefer not to marry, lack the legal structure that protects married couples’ rights on everything from property division to end-of-life decisions. Instead, they must create their own framework.

“It’s much more important for gay couples to have their documents lined up,” said Kurland. “We have to be sure we have our t’s crossed and our i’s dotted.”

Regardless of who you’re partnered to, if you commit to each other without tying the knot, these steps will help you avoid being caught in legal limbo:

Powers of attorney: Diehl’s parents, who are deceased, never acknowledged her relationship with Kurland. Had Diehl suffered a health crisis that rendered her unable to make her own decisions, “they would have thought it was their privilege, not Kurland’s, to make the decisions for me,” said Diehl. In most states, spouses and blood relatives take priority over nonrelatives in the absence of a document that specifies otherwise.

Diehl and Kurland assigned each other a health-care power of attorney, a state-specific document (available free at doctors’ offices, hospitals and on the Internet) that lets each make medical decisions on the other’s behalf. They also gave each other a durable power of attorney, which conveys the right for each to make financial and legal decisions for each other. A durable power of attorney goes into effect as soon as you sign it or upon a triggering event. Consult a lawyer about the choices.

Put it in writing: As singles, “you only have rights to something in the other’s name if there is a written agreement,” said Frederick Hertz, co-author of “A Legal Guide for Lesbian & Gay Couples” (Nolo, $34.99). A cohabitation contract, like a prenuptial, lets you formalize financial and living arrangements while you are together and spell out who gets what if you break up. Drawing up a contract can run a few thousand dollars for a simple agreement, to $25,000 for a complex one. Consult a lawyer.

Wills: Without a legal will, your estate will be divvied up according to state intestacy law, which generally favors spouses, children and other relatives, not significant others. To avoid leaving your partner in the lurch, spend the $300 or so necessary to have a lawyer draw up a will or do it yourself online.

If you are the biological parent and want your partner to raise your child after you die, be sure that you nominate him or her as the personal guardian. As with any guardianship, the court has to sign off on the nomination, but it generally respects the legal parent’s wishes, with one significant exception: The other legal parent — say, a former spouse — is willing and suited for the job.

Establish joint ownership: In some states, married couples or those with marital rights can title jointly owned property as tenancy by the entirety. Each spouse owns the entire property, and neither can sell without the other’s OK. When one spouse dies, the survivor inherits the property, avoiding probate.

Unmarried couples may own property two ways: tenancy with the right of survivorship and tenancy in common. With the first, you own the property 50-50. When one of you dies, ownership passes to the survivor automatically. You can sell or give away your half, but you can’t bequeath it to someone else. Some unmarried couples choose this setup to avoid the public process of probate or as backup to a will. Tenancy in common is more flexible: It lets you own unequal shares of the property, and, if you sell, you walk away with whatever percentage you contributed.

Keep track of gifts: Married couples in the eyes of Uncle Sam can give each other unlimited assets without tax consequences. But unmarried heterosexual couples and all same-sex couples are considered “legal strangers” for federal tax purposes, said Dana Levit, a financial planner in Boston and president of PridePlanners, a nonprofit financial-education group. That awkward status requires you to report gifts to each other of more than $13,000 a year (as of 2010). The excess counts against each individual’s $1 million lifetime federal gift-tax exemption.

Even if you’re not in the habit of writing each other fat checks, you could exceed the $13,000 limit by, say, putting your partner on the title to a house you own. Although most people never reach the $1 million limit, you lessen your risk by transferring assets incrementally, said Hertz. “Give early, often and in small amounts.”

Also be careful to document your contributions to any joint property owned as tenancy with the right of survivorship. Lacking evidence to the contrary, the IRS assumes that the entire property belonged to the first person to die and calculates the estate-tax obligation accordingly. Keeping separate bank accounts helps clarify who paid for what, said Carrie Aburto, a financial adviser at Aspen Wealth Management in Denver.

Minimize your taxes: As single filers (same-sex married couples, in states that legally permit same-sex unions, generally have to file as marrieds on their state taxes and as singles on their federal taxes), you can allocate your deductions to maximize the tax benefit. For instance, the partner who earns more income can pay the mortgage and deduct the interest, while the other partner takes the standard deduction.

“Taxes are one area in which it’s often good to be gay,” said Levit.

Likewise, if you have a child, one of you can claim the child as a dependent on your federal tax return. Assuming that the same parent provides more than 50percent of the child’s support, he or she also can file as head of household, which usually results in a lower tax bill. Couples with two kids may be able to split the difference, each claiming one child as a dependent and filing as head of household.

As singles, you have a good chance that at least one of you will fall below the income limits for tax benefits or tax-preferred accounts. Say one of you has an income that exceeds the limit for contributing to a Roth IRA, (which in 2010 is $120,000 for singles; $177,000 for married couples filing jointly) and the other has earned income that falls below the limit, the one who earns less can still establish a Roth IRA.

Provide for your survivor: You won’t have access to spousal Social Security benefits, but each of you can still name the other as beneficiary of your retirement accounts. Nonspousal beneficiaries of IRAs and 401(k) plans can take distributions from an inherited retirement account over their lifetime.

As for life insurance, leave enough so that each of you will be able to live comfortably if the other dies first. These days, term-life policies come cheap. A 50-year-old woman in good health can pick up a 20-year term policy with $500,000 of coverage for about $700 to $850 a year. A healthy 50-year-old man can buy the same for about $950 to $1,200.


Check out LegalOut’s affordable online solutions to start your estate plan - get started now for a piece of mind! Through our simple, easy-to-follow online tools powered by RocketLawyer.com, you’ll quickly and easily create affordable legal documents — all in the privacy of your own home.

Knowledge is the first step to protection. For more information visit LegalOut - Protection 101 or click on the legal documents below for more details:

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What is Estate Planning All About?

March 5th, 2010

No one likes to think about times of personal crisis such as illness, accidents, or even death. But such planning is essential for gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and transgender individuals and couples, whose basic civil rights, depending on state legislation, can be severely restricted.

Many of us put off estate planning for one reason or another. We know we need to do something, but we wait. We defer making a decision.

Why do we put off estate planning?

Some reasons may be:

  • lack of time
  • budget concerns
  • not knowing exactly what we need
  • we don’t want thing about death or crisis situations

But estate planning doesn’t have to be complicated at all. Estate planning is really about taking control over your own life and legacy and providing for who and what you love.

Not planning, means letting someone else plan for you. LGBT individuals need to be proactive to ensure that their plans for the future reflect their own wishes and are not dictated by laws that do not fit your life and relationships or individuals who are not involved in your life and relationships.

Estate planning is an opportunity to protect your wishes and loved ones - LegalOut provides you with affordable solutions to start your estate plan - get started now for a piece of mind!

How does LegalOut work?

It only takes three easy steps to safeguard your rights:

1. Select the documents that are right for you.

2. Review your documents using our simple online tools.

3. Finalize your documents. We’ll give you clear instructions at every step of the way.

Create a Basic Estate Plan:

At a minimum, any basic estate plan should include the following documents (click the link to learn more about the document):

Safeguard your relationship, secure your financial, property and health care rights by taking action now with LegalOut’s estate planning legal documents.

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Obama says he, first lady have ‘living wills’ - Do you?

August 6th, 2009

President Obama discussed the importance of preparing a Living Will at an online forum on health care sponsored by AARP on July 28, 2009:

“The problem is right now most of us don’t give direction to our family members and so when we get really badly sick, sadly enough, nobody is there to make the decisions.

And then the doctor, who doesn’t know what you might have preferred, they’re making decisions, in consultation with your kids or your grandkids, and nobody knows what you would have preferred.

So I think the idea there is to simply make sure that a living will process is easier for people — it doesn’t require you to hire a lawyer or to take up a lot of time.

… But it’s actually a useful tool I think for a lot of families to make sure that if, heaven forbid, you contract a terminal illness, that you are somebody who is able to control this process in a dignified way that is true to your faith and true to how you think that end-of-life process should proceed.

You don’t want somebody else making those decisions for you. So I actually think it’s a good idea to have a living will . I’d encourage everybody to get one. I have one. Michelle has one. And we hope we don’t have to use it for a long time, but I think it’s something that is sensible.” (For full transcript visit the White House Briefing Room)

A Living Will (also known as an Advance Healthcare Directive or just Advance Directive) allows anyone to indicate their wishes concerning the withdrawal or withholding of life-sustaining procedures if they are in a terminal condition with no hope of recovery or are permanently unconscious.

Importance of a Living Will

  • Give direction to your family members or partner - in case you get badly sick your family can make decisions based on your preferences in an difficult time.
  • Achieve legal and emotional security that a legal document can provide in protecting your interests should something unexpected occur.

Create your Living Will - with our simple online interview.

LegalOut makes it easy to write your Living Will for a peace of mind - this do-it-yourself document is easy, fully customizable and inexpensive to complete.

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The Living Will

August 6th, 2009

Guest contributor, Paige Arden Stanley from the Law Office of Paige Arden Stanley L.L.C. and member of LegalOut’s attorney network, discusses the importance of creating a Living Will.

During a recent healthcare forum, President Obama revealed that he and the First Lady each have Living Wills (also called advance healthcare directives) but hoped they would never need to use them. Obama’s speech turned a white-hot White-House spotlight on an important subject that everyone, regardless of age, should think about, discuss and request assistance with preparation. Don’t be like the countless individuals who would prefer ignoring having such an important document, thus leaving it up to others to guess at, or feud about, your wishes and what you might have wanted in terms of life sustaining measures.

What A Living Will Is
Plain and simple: a Living Will is one of the single most important documents that anyone, especially single individuals and unmarried partners (including those in domestic partnerships) can have.

A Living Will is a document that outlines what one’s healthcare preferences are in the event he/she cannot make those communications because of some kind of incapacity, albeit from a brief temporary condition to a long terminal illness. Without a Living Will in place, family members and/or health professionals are left to decide your fate. And, it might not be at all what you would have wanted.

What A Living Will Isn’t
Contrary to popular misconception, a Living Will is not about death or dying. In actuality, it is about someone carrying out your wishes and taking care of you while you are still living, but for whatever reason, you are unable to take care of or make decisions on your own.

Who Should Have a Copy of Your Living Will
Having a Living Will is not enough. Make sure that your doctor, the person you’ve designated as your power(s) of attorney regarding such decisions, and any other immediate family members have copies too.  It is also a good idea to take the Living Will with you when you travel. And, last but not least, if you are going to the hospital, even for what may be a minor procedure, take your Living Will. Read more about your options for legal document storage >>

Questions to Ask
Here are a few of the questions your attorney will ask when assisting in preparing your Living Will.

  • Do you have a current Living Will?
  • Do your parents?
  • Do your siblings?
  • Do your friends?
  • Do you have any idea how to bring up the topic?
  • Who do you want to make decisions for you?
  • Do you want artificial life-prolonging measures? Which: Nutrition and hydration? CPR? Under what conditions?
  • Where do you prefer to recuperate?
  • Do you wish to donate your organs?
Paige Arden Stanley, Law Office of Paige Arden Stanley, L.L.C For further assistance, please contact Paige Arden Stanley, Esq. at Law Office of Paige Arden Stanley, L.L.C.

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