Allison Harrison
November 10, 2023

Estate Planning for Queer Couples

LGBTQIA+ estate planning is important for couples to honor their wishes for assets and healthcare. Planning becomes even more crucial due to the intricate dynamics within their birth, chosen, and shared families.

Non-married long-term partners

In Ohio, where they did not recognize common-law marriage and before the Obergfell ruling, they did not legalize same-sex marriage. As a couple, you may not have seen a need to get married, even after the granting of marriage equality. Estate planning is vital because your long-term partners may not have automatic rights to your assets (or to make health care decisions). Without a designated beneficiary or will, assets may be distributed according to state laws that prioritize biological or adopted relatives. To ensure your partner inherits from you, it’s necessary to explicitly name them as a beneficiary on your accounts and name them in your will.


Aside from planning where your assets go, you need to plan for who can make healthcare decisions for you while you are still alive. If you're unable to make your own health care decisions and haven't designated someone through a power of attorney, your parents or siblings will be responsible. This person may be your family of origin, but you may not want them to make decisions. For example, if your family of origin does not recognize your transition, they may not make decisions in your best interest. By executing a health care power of attorney, you decide, while you are healthy, who can make health care decisions for you! Often, you will want your life partner to make those decisions versus your family of origin. Regardless of who you choose as your attorney-in-fact, it is vital that YOU are making the decision.


You may also want to name a guardian. If you are incapable of caring for yourself (for example, advanced dementia), you may also want to appoint a guardian. This person will make decisions about your care if you are unable to do so. They will be responsible for making decisions about your health, finances, and other personal matters on your behalf. It is vital to name a guardian to prepare for the future and have someone you trust to make decisions on your behalf. Therefore, naming a guardian is an important decision to ensure a secure future. You can, while you are young and healthy, name who you want to serve as guardian for you if you should need one. Again, this allows YOU to choose. If you do not name a guardian in advance, you will give the Probate Court the final say in naming a guardian.

Married couples

There is no legal disparity between heterosexual and same-sex marriages.. While the legal rights are the same, it does not necessarily mean there are no unique factors. 

As a queer couple, you may face healthcare or financial persons questioning whether they are married because you do not share the same surname. Having healthcare and financial powers of attorney, in addition to inherent legal rights, will avoid any delay in exercising those rights. 

You may not be public about your status as a married couple. Sometimes family dynamics prevent you from publicizing your marriage to your partner. To keep it private, you can designate your spouse as the beneficiary on your financial assets.. 


In LGBTQIA+ families, it’s essential to legally establish parental rights for both partners to ensure inheritance rights for children. Adoption or second-parent adoption processes are key. If you do not want to or legally cannot adopt the child or children, but you want to leave them assets, you can provide for that child/children by naming them as beneficiaries on accounts and designating them as a beneficiary in a will. Again, having a plan will create clarity over who gets what when you pass away. 


If you have no children, no close relationships, or no siblings, you may consider leaving your wealth to a non-profit organization. If that is your desire, you need to plan to name the charity as a beneficiary. It is also worthwhile to let the charity know of your intention.