Attorneys Whitley, Duggan leading seminar on LGBT estate planning as part of SOLID TALK series
JENNY BLOCK |Contributing Writernash@dallasvoice.com
It’s no secret that the LGBT community faces added challenges when it comes to legally protecting ourselves and our families. That is particularly true when it comes to handling our assets while we’re alive, passing on assets after we die and handling separations when families divide prematurely, especially when children are involved.
That’s why Meagan Whitley, an estate planning attorney, and Jaime Duggan, a family law attorney, are hosting a mini estate and family planning retreat next week in which they will address estate planning strategies and co-habitation agreements respectively.
On Thursday, Oct. 9, from 6-7:30pm at Oak Lawn Library, Whitley and Duggan will present a free seminar called “SOLID TALK: LGBT Estate and Family Planning Mistakes to Avoid.” The session is part of The S.O.L.I.D. Network’s monthly event program.
Duggan is a family law attorney at The Duggan Law Firm. She received her law degree from Texas Wesleyan School of Law and is one of the 2014 HRC Dallas Federal Club Co-Chairs. Duggan will speak to issues that affect the same-sex community, including domestic partnerships (including cohabitation agreements), adoption, child custody and divorce.
Whitley is an estate planning attorney, director of North Texas Operations for Rabalais Law and the author of the report, “Estate Planning for Same-Sex Couples.” She received her law degree from the SMU Dedman School of Law. She is an avid rock climber and mountain biker with a passion for all things outdoors.
The Dallas Voice caught up with Whitley to ﬁnd out more about the estate planning side of this event and what attendees can expect at this empowering event.
Dallas Voice: What is estate planning? Whitley: Estate planning involves taking action now to protect what you own. If you own anything and you care about either keeping it during your lifetime, or maximizing what you leave behind, then you need estate planning. If you don’t plan properly for your future, your assets can be diminished or depleted entirely.
Isn’t estate planning just for the wealthy? This is a common misconception. Everyone has an estate, no matter how large or small, complex or simple. Studies have shown that over 60 percent of American adults have no estate planning in place whatsoever. A large number of parents with minor children are included in that number, thinking estate planning is something only older people need to worry about. Estate planning guarantees that your loved ones are taken care of and your assets are protected.
What is the difference between a living trust and having a will? There are many differences between the two, but the most obvious and important one is that setting up a trust avoids the need to go through the court system, while simply having a will does not. Having a will is an important ﬁrst step. Both a will and a trust are easy to establish and you can remove your assets from either at any time. However, while a will may be a more cost effective option up front, it does not avoid the uncertain amount of time and money that you, your estate or your family will have to spend if something happens to you. Costs to ﬁle a will with the probate court can vary and the time spent going through this process is typically between six months and two years. Properly setting up a trust circumvents the court system entirely; it avoids the uncertainty of time and money that will be spent in doing so and allows your assets to be distributed immediately.
Why is estate planning particularly important for same-sex couples? Without proper estate planning, it’s probable that an immediate family member who is unsupportive could be managing your affairs if something happens to you. The law does not provide any rights for individuals who are not related by blood or marriage. Therefore, it is essential for couples living together, but not married, to protect one another with comprehensive estate planning. If same-sex couples do not plan, the state of Texas will determine according to state law what happens to their assets when they pass away.
What kind of services do you personally offer? Our ﬁrm handles the preventative side of estate planning. This means that we help you set things up correctly the ﬁrst time, so that the court system doesn’t need to be involved. This includes estate planning for Texas residents (wills, trusts, property powers of attorney, medical powers of attorney, living wills, Medicaid planning, real estate transfer document and business formations); uncontested Texas successions; federal estate tax planning and probate avoidance, which means helping you save money in the long run by keeping things out of the court system where the length of time and money that you or your loved ones will spend is uncertain.
What can attendees to the SOLID Talk expect to learn? Do you know how to best protect what you have and pass it along to your spouse or loved ones? Do you have any legal protections in place to ensure your wishes and intentions for your estate are respected? Are you aware that without proper planning, your assets and care may result in struggles through the grasps of lawyers, probate court, Medicaid, nursing homes, death tax, your not-quite-perfect son-in-law, that over-controlling daughter-in-law or your family or your partner’s family who don’t fully support you? Do you have a speciﬁc concern that you would like me to address? Please don’t hesitate to contact me at email@example.com.
•“SOLID TALK: LGBT Estate & Family Planning Mistakes to Avoid,” Thursday, Oct. 9, 6-7:30 p.m., Oak Lawn Library, 4100 Cedar Springs Road. Reservations not required but accepted on a ﬁrst-come ﬁrst-served basis. Seating is limited. Call 469-893-4235 for reservations or more information.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 3, 2014.