October 18, 2016 at 10:33 am EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Most LGBT adults don’t have a will: survey
will, gay news, Washington Blade

‘Leaving a positive, meaningful legacy is important for LGBT adults,’ said Wonhong Lee of Mass Mutual.

Sixty-two percent of LGBT adults aged 45 to 60 do not have a will, according to a newly released survey conducted by the Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance company.

The survey, which was conducted online, found that a similar number (60 percent) of adults in the general population in that same age range did not have a will.

By comparison, 69 percent of Hispanic respondents and 71 percent of African-American respondents reported not having a will, according to the survey, which consisted of a total sample of 2,500 Americans between the ages of 45 and 60. Out of that total, 500 identified as members of the LGBT community.

The survey was conducted Aug. 8-14, 2016.

“Leaving a positive, meaningful legacy is important for LGBT adults,” said Wonhong Lee, assistant vice president for Mass Mutual’s consumer and diversity group, which provides services for LGBT consumers. “That’s why we want to help them align their legacy, values and aspirations when planning for their loved ones’ financial future,” he said.

Lee said that although Mass Mutual’s main product is life insurance policies the company also provides financial planning services to its clients.

Michele Zavos, a Silver Spring, Md., attorney specializing in LGBT family law, said she and other members of her firm, Zavos-Juncker, have observed anecdotally a similarly high number of LGBT people who don’t have a will.

“I think that one misimpression that should be corrected when we say people don’t have wills is that they don’t have a will that they proactively prepared themselves,” she said. “But they do have a will. Their jurisdiction of residence writes it for them.”

Added Zavos: “So everybody has a will. It’s just a matter of whether you know what it says or not” and whether it’s in your best interest or not.

According to Zavos, people who are married – whether gay or straight – often don’t realize that state laws that determine who inherits the assets of someone who doesn’t have a will often do not award the entire estate to the surviving spouse. In many states, Zavos said, the deceased person’s children and parents are awarded a sizable part of the estate, with the spouse getting a smaller part.

It all depends on the laws of your jurisdiction of residence, which are known as intestate succession laws, she said. “It’s the equivalent of a will. It just says what the state wants to say, not what you want to say.”

For that and other reasons, Zavos said, it is important that all adults, especially LGBT people who may be estranged from blood relatives who aren’t accepting of their sexual orientation or gender identity, take immediate steps to obtain a legally prepared will.

The survey found that LGBT adults along with adults in the general population have a better record of documenting personal financial information such as financial accounts and insurance information. Sixty-one percent of LGBT adults aged 45 to 60 reported having done this, the survey found, compared to 60 percent of adults in that same age range in the general population.

But the survey also found that LGBT respondents in the survey were among the least likely to say they have a child who has access to their important financial information (10 percent). By comparison, 33 percent of African-American respondents and 25 percent of Hispanic respondents reported having a child with access to their financial information.

LGBT respondents, however, were significantly more likely to report having shared their financial information with a “special friend” (10 percent) versus 3 percent with Hispanic and 3 percent African-American respondents.

More information about the survey can be obtained at massmutual.com/lgbt.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

  • Another one of the intensely sad parts of LGBT life. Many of us won’t have a living legacy, nor will we have someone to look after us when we get old.

    • That’s likely why people aren’t doing wills. They wonder what the point is. It would be nice if more could be done to help LGBT plan for elder care, especially if they are alone and help them find places where they can spend their final years getting decent health care provided in an environment that won’t be abusive. Who advocates for LGBT that have no one that require assisted living, or nursing home care?

      You never really see anyone advertising services for estate planning or assistance with planning for a funeral. Even for people in general, this kind of information is glaring lacking. It appears everyone assumes someone else will take care of it for you so there really isn’t a need.

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