Friday, January 27, 2006

Protecting yourself and your partner: Marriage/Domestic Partnership Rights and Responsibilities

For years now I have explained to the Gay and Lesbian Community that although in the State of California we did not have the legal right to "marry" each other YET,we have always had the right to contract with one another and define the parameters of our relationships through various legal documents.

Although I personally continue to support our right to marry; I have and continue to encourage members of our community to take care of our personal business; or else it will be taken care of in ways we may not agree with.

Even without the right to marry, it is important to know, we have the ability to have attorneys draft domestic partnership agreements that outline how we merge our properties together and how we should split up property should the relationship fail. We have the ability to draft powers of attorney directing how and who is to take care of us should we become medically or mentally incapacitated. We also have the ability to draft wills and trusts to direct how we wish to distribute our estates should something happen to us. We also have the ability to decide how to hold our real property, whether as sole owners, joint tenants or tenants in common. Additionally, if we choose to have our partners, or even our friends be our beneficiaries instead of our blood relatives on our life insurance policies, these wishes will also be granted.

If you are entering into a domestic partnership with an individual and there are property rights involved its a good idea to consult with an attorney to best decide how to protect your interest as well as your partners. It is important to understand that laws regarding our relationships are changing all over the country as well as in California. With these laws come new rights and responsibilities should the relationship end.

Additionally it is important to know that the laws in California changed drastically last year regarding domestic partnerships and if you have registered your partnership as "a legally recognized domestic partnership." Although Gay and Lesbian people still do not have the FULL right to marry (it is only a matter of time, however until this is granted as well) we are NOW subject to many of the same laws and legal responsibilities should a relationship break up.

Although many domestic partnership laws have yet to be tested in the courts, few people have the expenses to afford long legal battles and attorney fees during a relationship dissolution (divorce). It is in this regard that is important to consider hiring 1 attorney to act as a mediator should your relationship end and there be property issues unresolved in lieu of delving into the extremely expensive "Family Court" system.

A legal mediator will sit down with both partners, analyze each person's contribution to the relationship and in most cases come up with an amicable dissolution of the relationship and property distribution without the cost of utilizing TWO attorneys and the court system.

Although we rarely give thought to the legal ramifications of end of our relationships, it is important to understand that our relationships have been now legally recognized on some level and with that recognition have come some important responsibilities.

These suggestions are in no way meant as a substitution for good solid legal advice from a professional, as each individual case may vary. If you have questions regarding this or any other legal matter, feel free to contact the Law Office Of Carl Simons at (310) 749-4LAW.


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