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Estate Planning

Honor Your Partner Beyond Your Lifetime

You've taken all the steps you can to share your life with the person you love. You've made a commitment to build a life together, but have you considered what might happen to your assets after your lifetime?

Will planning is for everyone. And for members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community it is imperative. The surviving unmarried partner of a LGBT relationship has no general right under state law to inherit the deceased partner's property. The property in these cases will be distributed to legal heirs through the laws of "intestacy." This means the deceased partner's assets will automatically pass to surviving biological or adopted relatives—or even the state itself—and not to their surviving partner.

The Need for an Estate Plan

To help ensure that your property and assets are distributed according to your wishes after your lifetime, it is essential for all members of the LGBT community to implement an estate plan. Basic estate planning includes:

  • a will;
  • a durable power of attorney;
  • health care directives;
  • beneficiary designation coordination; and
  • possibly a revocable living trust.

What Could Go Wrong


Ann and Barbara have been partners for 10 years, living in a house owned by Ann. Ann is suddenly killed in a car accident. Ann had not implemented an estate plan to provide for Barbara. Because Ann and Barbara were not married, all assets titled in Ann's individual name will likely be distributed to her biological or adopted relatives. Barbara would receive nothing and may be forced to move from the home.

Who Will Make Decisions in the Event of Incapacity?

Same-sex unmarried couples aren't legally permitted to manage financial or health care decisions for their partners in the event of incapacity due to injury, serious illness or advanced age, without signed authorization.

To ensure that critical financial and health care decisions are made by your partner, and not somebody else, contact your estate planning attorney to create the legal documents naming your partner as your attorney-in-fact for finances and health care directives.

Real Case Scenario:

Patrick and Brett were life partners for more than 25 years. Although they were not married, they shared their home and finances as a married couple. They were not accepted as a couple by Patrick's family. While on a business trip, Patrick had a sudden aneurism and subsequent stroke. Brett was allowed some hospital visitation rights. When Patrick was finally able to be discharged from the hospital, Patrick's parents took him home and barred Brett from seeing Patrick. When Brett petitioned the court for guardianship, the court sided with Patrick's parents.

In Re Guardianship Atkins,
868 NE 2d 878, Ind. App. June 27, 2007 (No. 29A02-0606-CV-471).

Your Next Step

Consult an estate planning attorney to protect and provide for your partner today and after your lifetime.


eBrochure Request Form

Please provide the following information to view the brochure.

A charitable bequest is one or two sentences in your will or living trust that leave to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals a specific item, an amount of money, a gift contingent upon certain events or a percentage of your estate.

an individual or organization designated to receive benefits or funds under a will or other contract, such as an insurance policy, trust or retirement plan

"I give to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, a nonprofit corporation currently located at P.O. Box 42516, Washington, DC 20015, or its successor thereto, ______________* [written amount or percentage of the estate or description of property] for its unrestricted use and purpose."

able to be changed or cancelled

A revocable living trust is set up during your lifetime and can be revoked at any time before death. They allow assets held in the trust to pass directly to beneficiaries without probate court proceedings and can also reduce federal estate taxes.

cannot be changed or cancelled

tax on gifts generally paid by the person making the gift rather than the recipient

the original value of an asset, such as stock, before its appreciation or depreciation

the growth in value of an asset like stock or real estate since the original purchase

the price a willing buyer and willing seller can agree on

The person receiving the gift annuity payments.

the part of an estate left after debts, taxes and specific bequests have been paid

a written and properly witnessed legal change to a will

the person named in a will to manage the estate, collect the property, pay any debt, and distribute property according to the will

A donor advised fund is an account that you set up but which is managed by a nonprofit organization. You contribute to the account, which grows tax-free. You can recommend how much (and how often) you want to distribute money from that fund to PETA or other charities. You cannot direct the gifts.

An endowed gift can create a new endowment or add to an existing endowment. The principal of the endowment is invested and a portion of the principal’s earnings are used each year to support our mission.

Tax on the growth in value of an asset—such as real estate or stock—since its original purchase.

Securities, real estate or any other property having a fair market value greater than its original purchase price.

Real estate can be a personal residence, vacation home, timeshare property, farm, commercial property or undeveloped land.

A charitable remainder trust provides you or other named individuals income each year for life or a period not exceeding 20 years from assets you give to the trust you create.

You give assets to a trust that pays our organization set payments for a number of years, which you choose. The longer the length of time, the better the potential tax savings to you. When the term is up, the remaining trust assets go to you, your family or other beneficiaries you select. This is an excellent way to transfer property to family members at a minimal cost.

You fund this type of trust with cash or appreciated assets—and may qualify for a federal income tax charitable deduction when you itemize. You can also make additional gifts; each one also qualifies for a tax deduction. The trust pays you, each year, a variable amount based on a fixed percentage of the fair market value of the trust assets. When the trust terminates, the remaining principal goes to PETA as a lump sum.

You fund this trust with cash or appreciated assets—and may qualify for a federal income tax charitable deduction when you itemize. Each year the trust pays you or another named individual the same dollar amount you choose at the start. When the trust terminates, the remaining principal goes to PETA as a lump sum.

A beneficiary designation clearly identifies how specific assets will be distributed after your death.

A charitable gift annuity involves a simple contract between you and PETA where you agree to make a gift to PETA and we, in return, agree to pay you (and someone else, if you choose) a fixed amount each year for the rest of your life.

Personal Estate Planning Kit Request Form

Please provide the following information to view the materials for planning your estate.