How to Find an LGBT-Friendly Estate Planning Attorney


Legal protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) couples in America changed dramatically with the 2015 Supreme Court ruling that legalized gay marriage in all 50 states. That means same-sex married couples no longer have to rely on creative workaround strategies to access the same estate planning tools and tax-saving strategies that heterosexual couples have.

Yet even with marriage equality in place, estate planning can be different for LGBT couples and families: from ongoing changes in state legislation,  to different opinions on the legal necessity of second-parent adoption for same-sex married couples, to LGBT individuals simply wanting to feel at ease with their attorney.  It’s worthwhile, then, to find not simply an estate attorney but an LGBT-friendly attorney who is well versed in the legal nuances and anxieties surrounding same-sex estate planning.

In some areas, a quick online search may reveal dozens of estate attorneys who promote themselves specifically to the LGBT community. In other parts of the country, finding the right referral may take more time and effort.

Proximity isn’t essential to selecting an estate attorney, but before you make a far-flung pick know that the attorney may want to meet in person more than once to review your needs and the attorney will only be licensed to practice in the state where he or she has passed the bar. If you have your heart set on an attorney that’s a few hours away (or over state lines), bring the distance up during the initial call, to ensure you’re able to work together.

A few ways to find an LGBT-friendly estate attorney:

1. Seek personal referrals

If you have LGBT friends or are part of a local LGBT social group, odds are strong that someone in your circle has worked with a local attorney to create an estate plan. Ask for recommendations, as well as how satisfied they were with the service they received and how their questions were handled.

2. Ask the non-profit pros

Lambda Legal is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing legal resources to the LGBT community. The Lambda Legal Help Desk can discuss your legal issue with you, provide useful information and connect you to an attorney in your area.

3. Head to the bar

Visit the National LGBT Bar Association’s list of state affiliates for referrals to local LGBT bar associations such as the Los Angeles LGBT Bar Association, The LGBT Bar Association of Greater New York and the Austin LGBT Bar Association. From there, you can find a list of links to local law firms and attorneys who specialize in estate planning for LGBT families.

4. Talk to your finance pro

If you work with a financial advisor or accountant, they likely have a professional network of estate planning attorneys that they regularly recommend to clients. While this recommendation may be a great fit, you’ll still want to vet how LGBT-friendly the attorney is.

Consider asking if they’ve worked with LGBT couples in the past, what their familiarity is with any ongoing or proposed legislation in your state that may impact estate planning for LGBT couples, and how the process of drafting an estate plan might be different as an LGBT person. The answers they give—and how they give them—can help you determine whether this lawyer is right for you.

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