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Why a Living Will is Important

February 4th, 2011

Recently, The South Florida Gay News.com posted a significant article, “Beyond Living Well is a Living Will” by Jarret Terrill about the importance of preparing a living will. This article highlights the challenges people may face without a living will, a form of an Advance Care Directive.

Advance medical directives pertain to treatment preferences and allow you to appoint someone you trust (a family member, close friend, or partner) - to make health care decisions for you if you lose the ability to make decisions yourself.

A living will is a written document that specifies what types of medical treatment are desired. A health care proxy names a specific person to make health care decisions for you when you can’t make them for yourself.

Here is an excerpt from the article:

“Many gay men and women are faced with anti-gay family members that they would not entrust an “end of life” decision to. Without a living will issuing advance directives, Florida hospitals would be bound by law to follow the directives of distant family members over a lover’s wishes.

A living will, also known as an Advance Care Directive, is a document that tells doctors, attorneys and law enforcement which person in your life is responsible for executing decisions you’ve made about your healthcare if you are unable to speak for yourself.

Says Daniel W. Humbert, a Fort Lauderdale Attorney who has developed a specialty in estate planning,  “a General Power of Attorney is very broad in scope and tends to give the Attorney-In-Fact (the person you designate) the power to do virtually anything. A living will is quite different.”

Humbert says that a living will is “where you can express your wishes for what they call extraordinary life-saving measures. This would be particularly important for a person who becomes incompetent or goes into a coma or something like that.”

“A living will is essential for everybody, but it’s particularly important to the gay community,” says Humbert.  Laws and regulations concerning those extraordinary circumstances and the decision-making process favor family members. Since the legal definition of a family member varies from state to state, this can pose a problem if you don’t have a living will.”

Click here to read the entire article>>

Without legal documents you are at risk of not having your wishes carried out in the event that something unexpected occurs. If you are in a committed relationship, you may want your significant other to be able to make medical and legal decisions for you, should you unable to make them yourself.  You would like to plan for the future of your family to ensure they are taken care of when you are gone. 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.

Prepare Legal DocumentsLegalOut’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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Are you one of the 70%?

August 11th, 2010

Did you know that national statistics indicate that over seventy percent (70%) of Americans die without creating a Last Will and Testament or other estate plan? This is a staggering statistic; it means that 70% of adults are letting others make decisions for them.

Are you one of the seventy percent? Do you really want someone else to make tough decisions on your behalf in times of crisis?

Here are some reasons why people do not create a Will:

  • Do not want to think about dying or being incapacitated.
  • Do not know where to begin.
  • Think they do not have any assets. People assume they have to be rich or married with children to create a Will.
  • Procrastination - people know they need to create an estate plan but put it off.
  • Legal costs are high.

What happens if you do not have a Will or Estate Plan:

  • State determines who gets your assets, not you.
  • Probate laws generally provide if a person dies without a Will, their property goes to family, rather than a partner they had a relationship with for years or decades.
  • Not having a Will may cause disagreements or lawsuits between your partner and your family.
  • Your loved ones would have the burden to decide what your wishes are in times of crisis.

Legal DocTypes of Estate Planning Documents

No one wants to think about his or her own death, but taking the time now to complete some basic documents can save you and your family much heartache later. You’ll get more peace of mind knowing that your wishes will be followed and your family and friends will be taken care of. Listed below are some basic estate planning documents:

Last Will and Testament
A Last Will and Testament allows you to set out your specific wishes for how you want your property and assets to be divided upon your death. It also designates who will assume guardianship responsibility of any minor children if neither parent can serve as guardian. You can use a will to make bequests to charities. Wills are easy to prepare, but are subjected to probate process, which, depending on the size of your estate, could take some time.

Living Will
A Living Will is a legal document used to specify your wishes for end-of-term health care decisions. It states that you do not want life-prolonging treatment if there is no hope of recovery, for example in the event of terminal illness or irreversible coma. Having a Living Will lets others know what your wishes are when you are unable to communicate them yourself.

Durable Power of Attorney
You can grant a Power of Attorney to another person (called your agent) for any case where you cannot represent your own interests. For example, you can send an agent to an important meeting you are unable to attend, and they may act on your behalf for the duration of that meeting. A Durable Power of Attorney, on the other hand, remains in effect if you become incompetent. In cases of terminal illness or permanent unconsciousness, you can set out health care directives for your agent, much like in a Living Will.

Hospital Visitation
This authorization is used to give visitation rights to a person who is not a legally recognized family member, should you become unconscious or unable to communicate yourself. You should have this document if you want your partner or someone who is not considered a family member by the state to be able to visit you in the hospital, should you become unable to communicate for your wishes.

Domestic Partnership Agreement
The Domestic Partnership Agreement is a document that a couple can enter into to dictate their contractual rights as a couple.

You can find all these legal documents and other estate planning forms on Legalout.com. Our online interview makes it easy to create these important documents - get started now for a piece of mind!

Online Legal Wills Provide an Affordable Solution
Everyone should have a Last Will and Testament, and the document should be reviewed and updated on a regular basis. Preparing and maintaining your Will doesn’t have to be time consuming, difficult, or costly. Knowing that an hour of an attorney’s time can cost $200 or more, many people put off preparing their Wills. However, you don’t have to use the services of an attorney to create an effective Will. You and the other members of your family can create your own Online Legal Will easily and inexpensively.

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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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Advance Health Care Directive

October 2nd, 2009

An Advance Health Care Directive allows you to name a specific person to make health care decisions for you when you can’t make them for yourself and provide instructions regarding your wishes and desires for health care, including what treatment is not desired.

Other names for advance health care directive include health care powers of attorney, durable powers of medical attorney, health care proxies and living wills.

An Advance Directive for Health Care or Living Will lets you:

  • Name a specific person to make health care decisions for you when you can’t make them for yourself.
  • Plan for surgery or hospitalization.
  • Assist your loved ones with difficult decisions.
  • State your wishes so that it is more likely that they will be carried out.

Ensure your wishes are carried out in case something happens to you. In a time of crisis, the last thing you want is to have your loved ones try to guess your health care wishes.

Create your Advance Health Care Directive now>>

Recently the Human Rights Campaign published the Healthcare Equality Index, an annual survey of healthcare industry policies and practices related to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals and their families. The goals of the HEI are: 1) to benchmark healthcare facilities on identified best practices and policies with respect to equal treatment of LGBT individuals and families; and 2) to share, implement and recognize these best practices with healthcare industry leaders.

To read more about the study and results click here.

Start now, create your Advance Health Care Directive for a peace of mind>>

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Same-sex marriages begin in Vermont

September 1st, 2009

Vermont is one of five states that now allow same-sex couples to marry. Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Iowa are the others.

Read the 365gay featured news story Same-sex marriages begin in Vermont -

Hooray for Ben & Jerry’s check out how they are celebrating marriage equality in Vermont:

In partnership with Freedom to Marry we are gathered here to celebrate Vermont and all the other great states where loving couples of all kinds are free to marry legally. We have ceremoniously dubbed our iconic flavor, Chubby Hubby to Hubby Hubby in support, and to raise awareness of the importance of marriage equality.

A great reason to eat some ice cream today!


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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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Adoption Resources for LGBT Couples and Individuals

July 22nd, 2009


Guest Blogger: LegalOut welcomes Independent Adoption Center (IAC) as a guest blogger to provide resources to LGBT families with their quest to adopt. IAC, founded in 1982, is a caring, open and supportive agency that understands the unique issues LGBT families face and has a long and proud tradition of working with gay and lesbian families in their pursuit to adopt.

LGBT families face some unique challenges when pursuing adoption. The biggest challenges are discriminatory laws and outdated, and unintentionally discriminatory, adoption agency practices.

Although adoption by LGBT families is outlawed in some states, and is difficult, though not illegal, in other states, in the vast majority of states LGBT adoptions are legal. The Independent Adoption Center (IAC) works with LGBT families to navigate the complexity of each state’s adoption laws to ensure that every adoption is done safely and legally.

The IAC is also committed to best practices in adoption, including practices that ensure the equal treatment of LGBT families. For example, a long standing practice at many adoption agencies is to ask birthparents if they are open to considering LGBT families before presenting family profiles.

This question implies that there would be some acceptable reason to consider excluding LGBT families.

The IAC has always taken the position that all families are equal and we do not ask birthparents if they are open to certain families. We assume they want to see all the families that are open to their situation so they can decide for themselves what is the best placement for their baby. As a result IAC has never had a longer wait time for LGBT families than for heterosexual families. In fact LGBT families have a shorter wait on average.

Although discriminatory laws are a problem in some states the IAC will work with LGBT families to ensure they adopt legally. We also are committed to ensuring best practices in adoption, and continually evaluate our program to ensure it serving all families equally.

Interested in learning more about adoption? Contact the IAC:  send an email or visit IAC Gay & Lesbians Families Web site.

Have an adoption question? Ask the Adoption Experts - Answers to All Your Adoption Questions.

Adoption Experts is a project by the Independent Adoption Center with the goal of spreading reliable information about domestic adoption, open adoption, and other adoption topics. Our experts have the answers to all your adoption questions. Ask your question now>>

Check out adoption stories written by some gay and lesbian families that have adopted through the IAC. Each of these families’ stories is as unique and incredible as the individuals who make up all of our open adoptive families. Read more>>

LegalOut Note:
If you are planning to start a family, in a long-term committed relationship, ensure your interests are followed should something unexpected occur.  Protect your wishes and family  by preparing legal documents. At minimum, any basic estate plan should include the following documents: Hospital Visitation Authorization, Living Will, Health Care Power of Attorney, Shared Parenting Agreement, Last Will and Testament, Power of Attorney. Protect yourself now - create legal documents.

Visit Legalout’s LGBT Issues section to learn more about adoption laws and terms.

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