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Myths of estate planning

Now that we’re married, we don’t need wills

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estate planning, gay news, Washington Blade
estate planning, gay news, Washington Blade

A marriage certificate is not a free pass. You still need well-constructed wills and powers of attorney.

This is the third in a series of seven articles to help you understand what you do know, don’t know and should know about estate planning.

The myth that marriage wipes out the need for wills and powers of attorney is the one that I hear the most often. And I cringe every time because it is patently false. My standard retort is, “So you think married opposite-sex couples have been signing wills for centuries and powers of attorney for decades just for the fun of it?” Of course marriage brings many rights and protections, but there are three big holes in this thinking.

1.  You need a will because if one of you dies, the other may not inherit everything. The state in which you live (or the District) has laws to ensure that a surviving spouse will inherit something, but there are a variety of circumstances in which that amount can be less than 100 percent if there isn’t a will. Does your spouse have children? Are your spouse’s parents still alive? If the answer is yes to either question, you will not inherit 100 percent of your deceased spouse’s assets. In Virginia, the surviving spouse may only receive one-third of the assets if there are children from a prior relationship. And while we’re talking about children, it’s also important to understand that minors cannot inherit anything directly. If money is left to them when they are under 18, a court-appointed guardian will be required to take control of those assets. Then, regardless of how much money may be involved, the children will get it all on the day they turn 18. Of course, a properly drafted will can prevent these problems.

2. Although this is difficult to think about, being married only provides protections if your spouse is alive at the time you die. If he or she is not, and you die without a will, the fact that you were previously married becomes irrelevant. You will be treated as though you were single. In that event, various family members will inherit all of your assets, whether you are close to them or estranged, whether they need those assets or not, and regardless of whether you had other plans. I’ve seen situations in which couples spent a lifetime accumulating valuable artwork and antiques along with significant amounts of money all of which went to distant relatives, rather than to the persons or organizations that the couple actually cared about.

3. All couples need powers of attorney, married or not. Sure, even if you don’t have a medical power of attorney, your spouse will be able to make medical decisions for you. But what if they can’t? A good medical power of attorney will grant the same rights to other trusted people if your spouse cannot take care of you. What’s more, if you become incapacitated, there will be hundreds of other necessary decisions that have nothing to do with medical care. That’s where a financial power of attorney comes in. For instance, nobody gets the right to access your solely owned assets automatically, even a spouse. Who will pay the bills, manage your money, take care of your home, and take care of your spouse? This power of attorney grants important, broad rights to your spouse and perhaps other people that you trust to manage all of your assets when you cannot.

So remember: a marriage certificate is not a free pass. You still need well-constructed wills and powers of attorney to make sure things work just the way you want them to.

(This column is not intended to provide legal advice, but only general guidance that may or may not be applicable to your specific situation.)

Larry Jacobs has helped hundreds of same-sex couples and LGBT singles in the Washington area protect their assets and loved ones through partnership planning. He is a partner at McMillan Metro, P.C. and has practiced law for 41 years. Learn more about his practice at PartnerPlanning.com.

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Local scientific non-profit U.S. Pharmacopeia kicks off Pride month

Council member Glass helps raise Progress Pride flag

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USP leadership join Montgomery County Council Member Evan Glass in raising the Progress Flag at USP’s Rockville offices as part of a celebration to kick off Pride month. Pictured from left to right: Denver Weil, scientist; Anthony Lakavage, SVP Global Communications; Council member Evan Glass; Michael Schmitz, Director of International Advocacy; Laurel Faust, Principal Scientific Editor; Brandon Bickerstaff, Internal Communications Manager; and Medardo Perez representing the USP Equity Office.

Montgomery County Council Member Evan Glass, joined almost 100 staff members and their families at U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP) to raise the “Progress Flag” and kick off a month-long celebration of Pride at the scientific non-profit in Rockville and in their offices around the world.

USP leadership and Council Member Glass each shared personal stories of their own journeys in addition to recalling the evolution of Pride from a day of protest to a month of celebration. Laurel Faust, USP Principal Scientific Editor – Publications recalled how in the 1980s a task many in D.C. now take for granted, getting a security clearance for a job, involved pointed questions that could lead to termination, investigation, or both.

Pride is much more than gay rights – it is an intersectional issue that speaks to the importance of human rights, said both Council Member Glass and Brandon Bickerstaff, head of the USP Black Employee Resource Group. They each reminded the audience that Black trans women were the original targets of police brutality during the Stonewall Uprising that served as the catalyst to the Pride movement.

“USP recognizes that Pride month has evolved to become much more than a march, a celebration, or the commemoration of an anniversary,” said Anthony Lakavage, Senior Vice President, Global External Affairs & Secretary, USP Convention & Board of Trustees and eQuality Alliance Executive Sponsor. “It is a time that brings the LGBTQ+ and straight community together in the shared mission of advancing human rights and dignity.”

The day’s events were sponsored by the eQuality Alliance, USP’s LGBTQ+ Affinity Group, and the USP Office of Organizational Culture, Equity and Inclusion (Equity Office). USP’s Equity Office focuses on driving a more inclusive culture at the organization. The Equity Office encourages staff to participate in Affinity Groups, which comprise of employees who drive dialogue and educate staff about challenges faced by and the history these marginalized communities often share. USP’s Affinity Groups include those around race, gender, national origin, sexual orientation, Veterans’ status, disability and diverse minds & bodies. The groups enable staff to support one another, connect frequently, and contribute to each other and the organization at a high level, thereby instilling a more inclusive work environment.

Michael Schmitz, International Advocacy Director and Laurel Faust, Principal Scientific Editor – Publications, are co-leads of the U.S. Pharmacopeia Affinity Group.

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Study: One in ten LGBT workers experienced discrimination at work

LGBTQ employees of color were more likely to report being denied jobs and verbal harassment at work as opposed their white counterparts

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bullying in the workforce, gay news, Washington Blade

LOS ANGELES – A new study by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law finds an estimated 46% of LGBT workers have experienced unfair treatment at work at some point in their lives, including being fired, not hired, or harassed because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.  

An estimated 9% of LGBT employees reported experiences of discrimination in the past year, despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2020 decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, which extended employment non-discrimination protections to LGBT people nationwide. Approximately 11% of LGBT employees of color reported being fired or not hired because of their sexual orientation or gender identity in the last year.

Using survey data collected in May 2021 from 935 LGBT adults in the workforce, researchers examined lifetime, five-year, and past-year discrimination among LGBT employees.

Results show that over half (57%) of LGBT employees who experienced discrimination or harassment at work reported that the unfair treatment was motivated by religious beliefs, including 64% of LGBT employees of color and 49% of white LGBT employees.

“Employment discrimination and harassment against LGBT people remain persistent and pervasive in 2021,” said lead author Brad Sears, Founding Executive Director at the Williams Institute. “Passing the Equality Act would ensure that LGBT people—particularly transgender people and LGBT people of color—are allowed to participate fully in the workplace as well as other public settings.”

ADDITIONAL FINDINGS:

Discrimination

  • 30% of LGBT employees reported experiencing at least one form of employment discrimination (being fired or not hired) because of their sexual orientation or gender identity at some point in their lives.
  • 29% of LGBT employees of color reported not being hired compared to 18% of white LGBT employees.

Harassment

  • 38% of LGBT employees reported experiencing at least one form of harassment (including verbal, physical, or sexual harassment) at work because of their sexual orientation or gender identity at some point in their lives.
  • LGBT employees of color were significantly more likely to experience verbal harassment than white employees.
    • 36% of LGBT employees of color reported experiencing verbal harassment compared to 26% of white LGBT employees.

Religious Motivation

  • Of employees who experienced discrimination or harassment at some point in their lives, 64% of LGBT employees of color said that religion was a motivating factor compared to 49% of white LGBT employees.

Avoiding Discrimination

  • Half (50%) of LGBT employees said that they are not open about being LGBT to their current supervisor and one-quarter (26%) are not out to any of their co-workers. 
  • Many LGBT employees reported engaging in “covering” behaviors to avoid harassment or discrimination at work, such as changing their physical appearance and avoiding talking about their families or social lives at work.
    • For example, 36% of transgender employees said that they changed their physical appearance and 28% said they changed their bathroom use at work to avoid discrimination and harassment.

Read the report

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Business

Time to dust off your pre-pandemic budget

We can no longer rely on closures to restrict us from spending money

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With pandemic restrictions lifting, we’ll all be spending more on going out in 2021 than we did last year.

D.C.’s first ‘mostly open’ weekend shows there is a year’s worth of socializing built up. It was amazing to feel the energy of the District roar back to life. From long lines outside bars to literal dancing in the streets – this is the city we all came to love. Now that the physical hangover may have subsided, you should prepare for the financial hangover. If you were lucky to keep your full pay and position through the pandemic, data tells us most of you were paying down debt.

The first thing everyone needs to do is dust off that old pre-pandemic budget. Sadly (or really luckily), we can no longer rely on health restrictions to naturally restrict us from spending. If you need a refresher, start with your post-tax income. From there, subtract ‘fixed’ or required expenses, like rent, and the balance is what you get to play with. Some may ask why I don’t use gross income (aka the before tax income) like many financial institutions do for credit applications. Frankly, it’s because net income (aka the money you actually receive) is the most practical number to budget daily life with. It’s what you can tangibly use to live.

Now as you develop your budget, return to using an app like Mint to take some of the work out of it. If you prefer to retain some level of privacy, many banks offer their own version of ‘spending trends’ that you can use to put together a more simple budget. This time the challenge is a bit different – we are all ‘restarting’ our social lives. So instead of having to ‘cut’ things, we can better prioritize what we actually want to do. Still – it is not easy or fun to have to choose, but every dollar you don’t spend today, will be there for the next rainy day.

Finally, so many of our friends and family lost their jobs or had their wages cut during the pandemic. Expanded unemployment benefits helped, but anyone trying to budget for life in D.C. knows that choices had to be made and often rent/utilities took a back seat to eating. Luckily, a state-run, but federal program will help people pay back rent and utilities, so they can focus on getting back to work. In D.C., this is called StayDC, but each jurisdiction offers a similar program.

Be prepared to do a little homework, you will need proof of income (or lack thereof) and documentation of the late payments. Finally, your landlord will need to complete separate forms, but it is in their best interest to receive those funds, so don’t let them drag their feet. The program will cover back rent to April 2021, three months of future rent, and past utilities. Do not delay, nor feel any shame by participating – this is the key to your long term success and, frankly, is a drop in the bucket compared to other spending priorities.

I hope this helps and I wish everyone a much more fun and prosperous 2021.

Information contained herein is for informational purposes only and should not be considered investment advice or recommendations. Advice may only be provided after entering into an advisory agreement with an advisor.

Alex Graham is a Principal at Graham Capital Wealth Management, a registered Investment Advisor located on K Street.

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