The legality of same-sex marriage is a hot political issue with no signs of cooling any time soon and San Diego County is no exception. Complex legal issues are developing on a daily basis, especially where health and finances are concerned and the San Diego Court’s look to the legitimacy of the marriage. San Diego Superior Court’s recognize marriages from all jurisdictions [including other countries as long as the formalities are observed] and also divorces from all jurisdictions [again including countries which are not the US with the mandatory formalities].
While it seems logical to project that same-sex marriages will eventually be subject to similar protections as traditional marriages, those protections may not yet be enforceable. For example, if you die without a will, your property will pass to a narrowly-defined group of “relatives.” In the eyes of the law, your partner may be no more than an ordinary “roommate.” It is also important to consider whether, in San Diego, a registered domestic partnership is on file with California per the mandatory regulations for domestic partnerships which are registered.
However, death is not the only situation that can form battle lines over your property. Ill health or aging can also trigger a family conflict. Even eccentric behavior can result in a relative questioning your competency and volunteering to manage your affairs. A registered domestic partnership valid in San Diego is the only alternative in California as of the preparation of this article since marriage between persons of the same sex are not now permitted.
If you are aging, or suffer a debilitating health condition, a concerned relative can obtain a court order, giving them control over both your health care decisions and your property. Some families have used this tactic to forcibly separate loving couples, claiming the significant other is a harmful influence. Once a court declares you legally incompetent, your opinion won’t matter. This is why it is important to consider all of the different advantages and disadvantages and consequences of your decisions.
The best way to prevent this is by planning ahead. By drafting a written contract naming your significant other as your health care representative and including a durable power of attorney, you can make your wishes known in advance and assure that your loved one will not be excluded from health and financial decisions. An estate plan can assist with insuring your wishes and desires are carried out after your passing however contests can be made in probate court.
Family intervention can be motivated by genuine concern or by greed. But failing to plan ahead can have devastating consequences when it’s too late.
You may believe that a registered domestic partnership agreement is an economical solution to these potential problems. However, a registered domestic partnership carries responsibilities as well as rights, and it’s always helpful to consult a lawyer, especially if the partnership is being terminated or either party has had multiple partnerships or has been married in the past to insure that the divorce is final and not a legal separation or that a divorce was not completed. There have been cases where spouses thought they were divorced and moved on with their lives only to find out years later that they were still married!
No matter what stage your relationship is in, a knowledgeable attorney can help determine objectives and strategies for meeting your life goals in a way that provides you and your partner with the approval and protection of the law. And as laws change, your attorney can help you by regularly reviewing your plan and situation and updating it as needed.
For a free initial consultation, contact us online or call our office at 858-312-8500.