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Critical steps for gay couples

By Jennie L. Phipps ·
Sunday, April 28, 2013
Posted: 7 am ET

Retirement planning in advance of serious illness is difficult no matter what your marital status, but if you are part of a same-sex married couple, the issues are even more complex.

Same-sex couples who live in one of the nine states or the District of Columbia that recognizes their marriages have the same rights as traditional couples in those states. Things get trickier outside of those key states and when dealing with issues controlled by federal law, which doesn't recognize same-sex marriage.

Here are some retirement and illness-related issues that are especially important for same-sex couples to recognize and deal with, advises Anna Pfaehler, a Certified Financial Planner professional with Palisades Hudson Financial Group in Scarsdale, N.Y.

Make sure your paperwork is up to date. In states where same-sex marriage isn't recognized, a same-sex couple will be treated no differently than roommates of either sex. Always keep wills, life insurance policies and trusts up to date and accessible. Make sure you have current beneficiaries on your life insurance policies, IRAs and 401(k) plans.

Demonstrate that you're of sound mind. If there is a possibility that a disapproving family member might contest your wills, reaffirm them as often as every couple of months. Each half of the couple should visit his or her attorney and re-sign wills and other paperwork. "Make sure your partner is not there when the wills are executed. Do it on a different day, with a different lawyer," Pfaehler says. "If the other person isn't present, it is hard to argue that you were coerced."

Having a health care proxy is crucial. Without it you might not be allowed to visit your partner in the hospital or make health care decisions on his or her behalf. "I think it can be difficult to get doctors and hospitals to respect them. But I think that there isn't a better alternative. So having one is invaluable, especially for same-sex couples," Pfaehler says.

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