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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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Advance Legal Planning for Single LGBT Individuals

March 24th, 2010

No matter where you are in life, you’ll always benefit from taking control and being proactive about advance legal planning. Plus, there’s never a wrong time to start planning your estate. Even if you don’t have a partner, you can designate the person you trust most to be your beneficiary and act as your agent in times of crisis.

Christine, a single lesbian started thinking about the importance of preparing a will and other estate planning legal documents after a frightening accident that left her briefly unconscious. Up until the accident, like many, Christine never thought about planning for times of personal crisis such as illness, accidents, or even death. As a single person, with minimal possessions and did not own property, Christine did not think there was a need for any legal documents.

Christine caught a bad case of the flu, she became weak and dehydrated which led to Christine passing out in her bathroom. Before she fell to the floor, she unfortunately hit her head on the washer, dryer and wall. Christine briefly passed out and when she woke up found that she cut herself above her eye.

Christine went to the emergency room and fortunately only sustained a few bruises and was released the same day. During this time, Christine wondered, what would have happened had she remained unconscious:

  • who would know what type of medical decisions she desired?
  • would her family know what type of medical treatment she wanted?
  • would her favorite possessions be distributed to the people she cared for in case she passed away?
  • would people know her favorite charity to donate money?

Christine knew that in order for all these questions to be answered and ensure her wishes would be carried out in case something happened to her she needed legal documents.

LegalOut thanks Christine for sharing her story.

If you die without a will, your State’s law will determine what happens to your property in a process called intestate succession. Without health care legal documents your medical wishes will be determined by some one else.

Learn how a basic estate plan can help you take control of your wishes.

Basic Estate Planning will help you:

  • Remember friends. If you’re single, you may wish to leave property who have rewarded you with friendship.
  • 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.

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!

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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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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LegalOut Featured in ABA Journal

June 25th, 2009

Serving Gays on the Net

New website helps prepare documents, find representation

July 2009 Issue
By Julie Kay

To read article from the ABA Journal Web site visit: Serving Gays on the Net

It was the 2004 election, and Lindalisa Severo was distressed. The Atlanta lawyer and gay rights activist was disturbed by the num­ber of anti-gay-marriage amendments on state ballots (including in her own state of Georgia) and thought other gays and lesbians were being systematically denied legal rights available to the general population.

So she got the idea to start an online service where the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community could turn to have legal documents pre­pared—everything from living wills to parenting agreements to powers of attorney.

Her idea was to have an easy and affordable way for gays and lesbians to fill out forms online without having to visit a lawyer. She realized that while same-sex couples in big cities may feel comfortable visiting lawyers, those in smaller, rural or conservative towns might not. She also wanted the service to be affordable.

After Severo teamed up with her brother, Internet guru Tony Severo, as well as online legal services provider RocketLawyer.com and other partners, she launched LegalOut this spring.

In addition to document preparation, LegalOut offers document storage and sharing, news blogs, links to petitions and other activist sites, and a referral network of lawyers sympathetic to LGBT causes.

The service costs $20 a month or $120 annually for unlimited document preparation, with the first document free.

“I felt like if they weren’t rec­ognized by the law, at least legal­ly same-sex couples could be tied togeth­er,” says Severo. “I’ve heard horror stories of one of the partners passing away and the family taking the house and leaving the other partner with nothing.

“If you’re not protected as an LGBT couple, you could really lose a lot.”

Even in states that don’t ban same-sex marriage, same-sex couples often lack the right to visit hospitalized partners, to make health care decisions for ill partners or to assume community property when partners die. They also may have no clear-cut separation or parenting-rights agreements.

LegalOut is one of several online legal documentation services that have sprung up in the last few years. Pink Legal offers similar services in the United Kingdom. RocketLawyer.com and Rainbow Law Center do so in the United States.

Many of the services, like Legal­Out, are state-specific: The online form asks which state you live in, then guides you to specific questions based on that state’s laws.

Jennifer Pizer, senior counsel for Lambda Legal in Los Angeles, says such services are needed, particularly in rural or conservative areas. “Law­yers often closet themselves and clients often closet themselves,” she says. Lambda Legal is a civil rights organization that represents gay causes in the courts.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, many LGBT individuals have lower incomes than those of heterosexuals. And the fact that LegalOut is affordable is par­ticularly vital, Pizer says.

While Pizer advocates permanent changes to anti-gay laws, she recommends individuals prepare legal documents in the short term to protect themselves.

“Everyone can have a will prepared, prepare a health-care advance directive and power of attorney papers,” she says. “The law refuses to recognize that we exist, so yes, there is an extra degree of need.”

For more:

A Congressional Budget Office study discusses 1,138 federal statutory provisions affected by marital status.

Note from Lindalisa Severo, LegalOut President:
“The LGBT community has always been fueled by grassroots efforts in conjunction with legal advocates. Although I am not a lawyer, as mentioned in the article, I was motivated by my commitment to the community and have benefited from the input from attorneys equally committed to enriching LegalOut with their expertise.”

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LegalOut Introduces New Do-It-Yourself Domestic Partnership Agreement for the LGBT Community

June 17th, 2009

ATLANTA – LegalOut announced the addition of a new online do-it-yourself domestic partnership agreement, an important legal document for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender couples.  Since rights between same-sex couples in many states are governed by principles of contract law, and not family law, a domestic partnership agreement outlines the legal rights and responsibilities of each partnership in a long-term committed relationship. The easy domestic partnership agreement is the latest interactive legal document published by LegalOut in partnership with RocketLawyer.com.

The LegalOut Domestic Partnership Agreement identifies each partner’s responsibilities, such as how to share income, pay bills, and whether property is meant to be jointly or individually owned. This document can also help in the event of a separation by clarifying ownership of property and by specifying a dispute resolution mechanism.  The do-it-yourself document is easy and inexpensive to complete.

“When a same-sex couple decides to form a long-term committed relationship, it’s smart to obtain a domestic partnership document to help solidify the relationship by outlining the responsibilities of each partner”, said Attorney Allison McDonald of the The Law Office of Tavis L. Knighten, P.C, who reviewed the new domestic partnership agreement.  She continued, “A domestic partnership agreement supplements other estate planning documents such as: living wills, financial and healthcare power of attorney documents, co-parenting agreements, and hospital visitation authorization documents, all of which help to protect a couple’s interests.”

LegalOut‘s President, Lindalisa Severo said, “Many states do not recognize any form of same-sex couple marriage benefits, as evident in the recent ruling in California to uphold Prop 8. It’s important for LGBT couples to be proactive to ensure that their plans for the future reflect their own wishes. A domestic partnership agreement helps outline these wishes.”

Charley Moore, Rocket Lawyer’s Founder and CEO added, “We’re proud to partner with LegalOut to provide the Domestic Partnership Agreement online.  The LGBT community has unique legal needs, and LegalOut is leading the way to help fill that need. It’s essential for everyone to have easy legal documents to protect themselves and their loved ones.”

Thanks to LegalOut, it’s easier and more affordable for members of the LGBT community to take care of their legal needs.  The first legal document is always free, and for $19.95 per month users have unlimited access to all LegalOut documents and membership benefits, including an online vault to securely store the document, document sharing , electronic signatures, and more.

Start your domestic partnership agreement now!

About LegalOut

LegalOut is an online resource center that provides the LGBT community with affordable legal document solutions.  Powered by RocketLawyer.com™, LegalOut provides hundreds of do-it–yourself legal documents including living wills, domestic partnership agreements, financial and health care power of attorney documents, co-parenting agreements, and many others. In addition, the site provides resources to keep members informed, empowered, and protected – connecting LGBT individuals, families and business operators with lawyers who understand the unique needs of the LGBT community.

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