Protecting Yourself and Your Loved One(s)

Can you correctly answer all seven of the following True or False questions?

  1. You have to own property to have an “estate” and need a will.
  2. Medicare covers nursing home care.
  3. If you or your partner receives government benefits, it might not be in your interest to get married or enter into a civil union.
  4. When a person inherits his or her same-sex partner’s 401(k) or 403(b) retirement account, she or he always has to pay taxes on the amount.
  5. Legally-married transgender people don’t need the protection of a personal relationship agreement or Memorandum of Understanding.
  6. If you have a durable power of attorney, you do not need a hospital visitation authorization.
  7. No laws prohibit a retirement home from discriminating against a same-sex couple or a transgender person.

Answers:  1. False.  An “estate” is everything you own, including personal belongings.  If you care who receives your things when you die, you need a will.  2. False.  Medicare nursing home benefits are extremely limited; most nursing home care is paid for by a person’s savings or, when all savings are gone, through Medicaid.   3. True.  A legally-recognized partner’s income may be used to reduce government payments or even make the beneficiary ineligible.  4. False.  As of January 2007, some retirement plans permit tax-free rollovers to same-sex partners.  All retirement plans will be required to allow tax-free rollovers to a non-spouse beneficiary beginning January 2010.  5. False.  Because some marriages involving a transgender person have been successfully challenged, all transgender people and their partners should have a written personal relationship agreement.  6. False.  The durable power of attorney may not take effect unless you are incapacitated, and a marriage or other legal union may not be recognized if you are hospitalized out of state.  7.  True and false.  There is no federal law specifically prohibiting anti-LGBT discrimination in such facilities, but some state and local anti-discrimination laws might.

If you incorrectly answered any of these questions (and very few people can answer them all correctly), you and your loved one(s) should go through the National Center on Lesbian Rights’ new publication, “Planning with Purpose: Legal Basics for LGBT Elders,” available for free download at:  This 34-page document, prepared in conjunction with Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE), is an excellent and up-to-date (June 2009) guide to the ever-changing laws and policies of most interest to elder and aging LGBT people.  You’ll still need to consult a fully-informed lawyer to make sure your paperwork meets your state’s standards, but this guide will help you pinpoint where you have left yourself and/or your loved one(s) vulnerable, and what can be done to lower the risk.  If you counsel LGBT elders, this is a must-read that should also be put in a reference binder and kept close at hand. 

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