Family Values

Comments

1
There's your TV commercial right there.
2
I'm hoping that the Gay Activists won't be afraid to make PSAs claiming that with out Marriage Equality children will be harmed (a hard hitting no holds barred PSA). Like Fnarf said this is a good PSA for Marriage Equality, we gotta save the kids.
3
people can write wills. it's my impression that this nightmare scenario can only happen in the absence of a will. perhaps i'm misinformed...am i wrong about this?
4
Somebody give that guy a regular column. He's more articulate than about 90% of the columnists out there.
5
A will can be contested, and unfortunately, judges go with family over partner the majority of the time. This isn't the first time I have heard of this possible scenario, which has been proven true far too many times.
6
That was perfect.
7
for crying out loud
get a decent will
end of story
8
Um - a will is a legal document and done well, very hard to contest absent senility. @3 - that was my question as well reading through this. These are adults - duh.

Better to go with the facts over the emotion, though this is a heartbreaker case. Be smart about this - plan for the response and choose your tactics wisely.
9
WONT SOMEBODY THINK OF THE CHILDREN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
10
A will won't protect this adult disabled person from being dumped back with his family if domestic partner dies. Jake is not Thomas's legal guardian or parent, and would have little standing if his partner died to keep Thomas with him. If his partner petitioned and was named Thomas's legal guardian, he may be able to direct who should take over as guardian if he dies, but it's not the same process as when a parent names a legal guardian for their minor child.
11
The domestic partner and I went to what was promoted to us as the best gay attorney in Chicago to make sure we had all the legal protections of marriage. He drew up a thousand dollars in wills and powers of attorney and related documents, and we thought we were all set. But since then we've learned from our financial planner and some other attorney friends that mere wills -- especially the wills of gay domestic partners -- are easily contested by blood relatives and we need to fork over thousands more to have trusts and who knows what else drawn up to protect ourselves. So we're looking for a better attorney who will give us the legal protections we asked for in the first place.
12
Jesus Christ, that's magnificent.
13
Hey, #7:
The "end of story" is marriage equality, not hoping that a (potentially very expensive) will is adequate...
14
Re the wills...just look at Anna Nicole Smith and how easily she got her husband's money after he died. Oh wait, she didn't.

Best of luck to you all, Jake.
15
@11, it's so fucked up that you have to spend thousands of dollars to set up something that might not even protect your rights in the end, when a simple fucking marriage certificate would do it.

btw, I'm stealing "your mythology does not trump my reality". That's awesome.
16
Marriage equality seems to be the most apparent option in terms of fairness. Because they're gay they should have to fork over thousands of dollars -- just to get the same privilege afforded to heterosexual married couples?
17
But wait a second... if the house is in the ownership of both partners, the family is not supposed to get it. I am not married, but I have joint ownership with my boyfriend. If one of us dies the condo will belong to the other... no will needed. I am in Canada, but I think joint ownership is the same everywhere....
18
@17, "joint ownership" by virtue of buying a property together is not the same everywhere, here in the states. In most states you would have to designated that you are purchasing a property with 'right of survivorship' - a tricky legal construct that my property law professor made his classes swear to never do. (Shout out to Prof. Oltman!) Here, if two people buy a property together without any special designation and one dies without a will, his share goes to his natural heirs - kids, parents or siblings.
19
My understanding is that even a co-ownership results in the deceased person's "share" of the property going to that person's family, not to the other owner. (Luckier - you beat me to that point!)

So that sucks.

In addition, consider the following scenarios:

#1) Woman meets man who owns a home - they marry, he dies, she gets the home.

#2) Man meets man who owns a home (or woman + woman) - they can't marry, owner dies, owner's family gets the home.

My partner and I "own" a condo together (we both pay the mortgage) but I'm not on the deed, so if he passed away I would have essentially zero rights to our home BECAUSE WE CAN'T F-ING GET MARRIED.
20
@18. that's shitty... I love Canada! Vive la Queen!
21
I think all the gays should just move up here. End of the story!!
22
A will will do it (for you too, TJ @ 19). A deed with rights of survivorship will do it. This is all very easy.

Look, there are lots of good arguments for marriage equality. But hysterical hypotheticals involving people for whom extremely simple legal documents such as wills or medical power of attorney are too much trouble are not among them.
23
What's with a the premature "end of story" comments? This is a civil rights issue, not comparative shopping. For science's sake!
24
#22 - I hope you are right, and we have taken steps to help make sure we are protected, but many people get screwed because they don't have the knowledge/money/time/lawyer to do this.

And they shouldn't HAVE to.
25
If the title of a house/condo is held "joint tenancy" and not "tenancy in common" then it should automatically revert to the surviving person if one person dies. For tenancy in common, that doesn't happen, it goes to whoever is designated in the will (or family, if there's no will). When you buy a house with another person, you have to specify how the title is held, regardless of what your relationship is.
26
One of these days America will join the 21st Century.

Just not today.
27
@11, Build evidence to show that you meant your will. Make a video, update it every year, tell lots of people about it. Instead of just two witness, get 10. Video tape the signing.

Make sure your Bank Accounts are Joint tenant with right of survivorship. Do the same for your house. Make as little property subject to the will as possible.
28
@22, there can be a problem though when you start talking about large estates. The lack of a martial deduction can be tough.
29
@22. You miss the point, I would respectfully argue, because you overestimate the simplicity of the legal protections that are available as a proxy for something that truly is simple--marriage. Maybe a will or power of attorney unto itself is easy or simple. But each is part of a larger context and bound up with a bunch of facts that may or may not be known by the parties, much less the hapless attorneys who get nothing but grief for their attempts to make sense of it all and actually expect to be paid for the service. And all these facts and their legal implications need to be known and taken into account in the legal solution. The idea that parents like these can order up a one-size-fits-all package of simple documents and be done with it a couple of days and a couple of hundred dollars later is wrong in a big way, although it probably is a commonly held idea. Timing alone can frustrate any effort like this--in any given situation, by the time a suite of documents has been prepared and signed, it may be too late, or other events may have overtaken the original plan. I believe the point being made is that it is discriminatory to require one class of parents to navigate this expensive and perilous gauntlet in order to advance their own interests and those of their children, while another class can get better protections merely by signing a marriage certificate.
30
FYI, this horrofying situation explains why Dan Savage should not use the word "retarded" to refer to people without cognitive disabilities who he thinks are doing or saying lousy things.
31
I don't think Thomas will put up with any more shit from his "mother" or "father". And yes, they did good by taking him in and helping him heal. And yes, we must continue to fight the so called "Christian" extremists even as our country must fight "Muslim" extremists. Religion is the problem for mankind, not the solution.
32
That's a great cri de coeur, and remember, my fellow gay diatribists, our go-to adjective is spelled "repellent." Tirade-readers are quick to dismiss any broadside with too many misspellings of the standard modifiers.
33
So basically, everyone is saying 'yes, if you bust your ass and spend all your money, then you have a higher chance of protecting your things with said partner' except that straight married couples don't even have to think about it. Ever.

Who cares if there is a way to do it, there shouldn't be so much red tape. Just let gays get married. Then, in the end, everyone has the option to be happy.
34
@30

don't be retarded
35
Could Jake legally adopt his partner's brother?
36
14, i don't think that's a very convincing example, unless you're trying to say that a marriage certificate WON'T guarantee your inheritance. in her case, a will would have put the case to rest a long time ago.
37
@33, I doubt there are that many people here opposed to gay marriage, but alas it is not the reality yet. There is nothing wrong with helping people make do with the world as it is.
38
As was obliquely referenced by someone (I not certain because it was _very_ oblique), something else very important happens with property joint tenancy with right of survivorship transfers upon the death of a non-spouse: you (may) have to pay taxes on half the house you get (depends on the size of the estate and the tax threshold at the time). But regardless of whether you will actually OWE any taxes, it is (likely) considered as a TAXABLE transfer to you. [I know I phrased that awkwardly.]

Also, unmarried partners are not eligible for "tenancy by the entirety," which is just like JTWROS above, but with an extra layer of protection: one spouse cannot unilaterally give away (or sell or otherwise transfer) his or her half of the property. Both spouses have to do the transfer together (it's like a nuclear missile launch with the two activation keys). This affords protection from creditors as well as idiot spouses. Gay couples without marriage do not have this protection, and it cannot be created by another legal instrument (although it might be possible to approximate it through trusts).

(rant continues in next comment)
39
I really get tired of people saying gay couples can just make up a will and sign a power of attorney doc and that'll give most of the protections of marriage. That's bullshit. While even the validity of a marriage can be challenged by a pissy hospital worker, no one is going to demand a straight couple produce a marriage license to prove they're married before one of them makes a decision in a time of crisis. Countless gay and lesbian people have experienced the most heartless and cruel treatment in hospitals because some person either questioned their medical power of attorney, simply chose not to accept it, or required additional validation.

99% of the times that you're using a power of attorney or medical power of attorney, something is horribly wrong -- a car accident, a heart attack, or problems with surgery. These are NOT the times you want to argue with a hospital administrator over your right to make decisions about your partner's health, nevermind fighting just to get in the room to see him, possibly for the last time.

My husband (we're in Massachusetts) and I travel with copies of our marriage license, various powers of attorney, and some other documents, in case we're hospitalized. And they'll have to arrest me if they try to prevent me from seeing him. And if we're really concerned that we won't be recognized as partners, spouses, or kin, we're willing to lie and say we're brothers. No hospital person who's prejudiced against homos is going to deny someone's brother entry, although they might be a little confused by the kissing. Fuck 'em.

Jake is 100% on target. He is absolutely right to fear the scenarios he's written about -- because they've all happened before, and we're not so enlightened today that they won't happen again.

Some gay couples are aware of the problems they can face and the documents they need, but many more are not, and why on earth should they have to spend that money and jump through those hoops for a handful of flimsy protections that can granted best with a single marriage license.


People don't need marriage licenses for the good times. They need them for the bad times.
40
[my most important point got hidden, so I'll repeat it.]

People don't need marriage licenses for the good times. They need them for the bad times.
41
When my partner died, I consulted a tax and estate lawyer about what could happen if I didn't pay the back taxes he owed to the IRS (nothing could happen, we simply shared a house) and whether they could come after joint property (basically, everything). They couldn't. The attorney filed a letter with the IRS saying he died intestate. He left no "estate," so it's technically true.

We had wills, power of attorneys, medical POAs, and all of that in order because we knew he was terminal.

Nothing bad happened. I suspect part of that was because his family liked me and had no desire to cause trouble for me, and because I told them I'd open up the house to them and they could have anything they wanted. They took almost nothing. I was actually trying to get them to take stuff.

We had no kids, so I can't address that. We didn't agree on what age kid we wanted. I wanted an infant, he wanted a teen already gay-identified, so we never did it. I'm glad now because I'd have been left a single parent and financially ruined. I'm barely making it for just me as it is.

Bottom line, we need ALL of the rights and duties of marriage to simply cover our own asses, financially and otherwise.
42
the property can probably be placed into joint tenancy and that should take care of any possibility of the home going anywhere near the probate process.

it is true that those who fail to seek basic legal advice are at greater risk due to not having a legal ability to marry.

don't worry about them taking the home, so long as you go to a lawyer and fix the deed. Worry about them seeking a guardianship over Thomas to exploit the government benefits to which he is likely entitled.

and get thee to an attorney. please.



43
@42

Good advice. Get guardianship. Get an attorney. Do it today.

Many companies provide very good and free attorney services through their Employee Assistance Program. See if you have one and use it.

I got mine through EAP, and they happen to be one of the most respected firms in the city. Surprise!
44
Don't get me wrong. I am very much in favor of full marriage equality.

But until that time arrives, go to SuzeOrman.com and check out her "Will and Trust" link. Since she and her partner are lesbians, I'm pretty sure she's faced these issues, and dealt with them effectively. (And Suze has LOTS of money to take care of...)
45
I am so confused.

First of all, you can't adopt your brother. Just can't.

But why would the parent of the partner get legal access to his home? That makes no sense. Marriage ain't going to help the dudes take care of Thomas -- that's a different issue about siblings being able to care for their disabled brothers and sisters. I just don't understand why a parent, instead of Thomas himself, would inherit anything. And why would the parents even get to touch it if the partners co-own the house? Jake, get on the goddamn mortgage, huh?
46
Idaho,

You *can* adopt a sibling as a child, my cousin adopted her youngest sister. Legally. She needed to get her sister out of the abusive parents' home. The younger always knew "mom" was really her oldest sister, but she called her "mom" anyway, and she considered her "mom's" younger kids as brothers and sisters, even though in reality she was their aunt.

There are a lot of twists in laws like this. That's why the first step is to GET AN ATTORNEY who knows his or her shit.
47
Oh, and to this:

"why would the parent of the partner get legal access to his home? That makes no sense. "

If my partner's living mother had wanted, she could have claimed half of everything because she's the surviving BLOOD RELATIVE, and they get preference. Doesn't matter the nature or length of our relationship, unless we're legally married. Then, the surviving spouse gets it all.

Surviving parent(s) can legally step in to their unmarried deceased child's life and the law allows it. Parents first, then surviving children, then siblings. The state gets it if there's nobody left to get it.
48
Dude. There's this thing called a will. Look into it. All the nightmare scenarios he outlined are a result of dieing intestate. If you are gay and concerned about this stuff WRITE A GOD DAMN WILL.

Yes, society should fix this stuff. But in the mean time take care of yourself and your survivors by WRITING A GODDAMN WILL GOD DAMN IT!

Now, this won't prevent psycho woman from regaining custody if his brother dies. But that is no different than if they were married. In order to prevent that situation the blogger would have to adopt the child. I am not an expert on adoption, it is likely that if they were married adoption would be easier, but it just as easily might make no difference. That probably varies a lot by state.

The thing that will prevent psycho woman from taking control of the child is Child Protective Services, and whatever the analogue is for impaired adults. If they are given a report of the abuse, they will step in. They will prevent psycho woman from retaining custody and probably allow the blogger to retain custody as a symbolic relative. That's what we do here in deep red Texas, I doubt it is very different in other states, but again, that will vary by state. One thing that will not vary is that the state doesn't want to take the person in if someone else wants him and the state doesn't want him taken care of by abusive loonies. They do need to be notified before they take action though.

Finally, to Widow #47. I am very sorry for your loss. It is true though that what you are talking about are the rules for dieing without a will. Had your wife written a will she could have left everything to you and those rules would not apply.

We can't change the laws tomorrow. That will move at the pace of politics and election schedules. What you can do tomorrow is write a will. While it is a good idea to go to a lawyer, in every state I am aware of, a handwritten, dated, and signed will is valid.

If you are gay and in a committed relationship and worried what will happen if one of you die, step away from the computer right now. Sit down with a pen. Date the paper. Write down what you want to happen when you die. You don't have to say "this is my last will and testament," but it is a good idea. Sign it. Use a pen, DO NOT USE A COMPUTER. It must be longhand in your own handwriting. Take it with you when you go see a lawyer, but it is your real will until you replace it.

You have a pen. You have paper. You have no excuses.
49
Oh, to Widow, I assumed you were a woman because you called yourself Widow rather than Widower. If you are the same person who called yourself Widow above I apologize for calling your husband your wife.
50
To TJC #39. You have many valid points. These are reasons to support Gay Marriage.

However, despite the fact that a will will not solve all problems, it will solve many problems. I am glad you have protected yourself as well as you can. Others need to do the same. My concern is that when we stress the problems that a will cannot solve it might give the message to some people that they shouldn't bother.

I hate to tell you also that the gay experience with medical powers of attorney is not actually the gay experience. It is more like the plain old experience. These problems happen more often than not, and because of the numbers, to straight people much more often than gay people. Public acceptance of, and trust in, written directives of all sorts directed toward health care workers has far, far, outstripped the acceptance of them by the health care industry. As I type this, many people are dealing with this problem and most of them are straight. As you read this, many more are dealing with the problem and most of them are straight as well.

While I accept that gay people have problems with medical powers of attorney and other written directives, the big problem is with health care acceptance of the directives in general. The gay angle is pretty small. That may be the pretext a worker uses in one instance to reject following a directive, but be assured, they are looking for any reason they can to ignore them in just about all cases. It is a big problem.