Five Reasons You Should Be Writing Your Will
The steps for protecting yourself, your assets, and your family arrangements through proper estate planning can seem like an intimidating process. For this reason, many people avoid making a Will for themselves or their property. Others avoid drafting a Will because they feel they don’t have enough property or assets to justify a will.
Don’t let these kind of assumptions block you from seeking out the estate support that you deserve! No matter your personal situation or property size, you can benefit from a detailed will, and we’re here to tell you why.
1. You never know when something might happen.
If we’ve learned anything from the many well-loved famous figures taken from us suddenly in the past few years, it’s that our time may come at any moment.
As unpleasant of an idea as this may be, the chances of facing an unexpected medical emergency, being involved in an accident, or taking an overall turn for the worse may make an even larger impact (financially, at the very least) on those of us who don’t have the safeguards of a fortune or a caring biological family to handle our matters.
To add insult to injury, trans and queer folks face even higher likelihoods of health disparities, hate crimes, sexual violence, living with mental illnesses, and substance abuse -- all of which are amplified for LGBTQ+ folks of color, people living in poverty and/or experiencing homelessness, and people with disabilities.
We can’t always control our circumstances, but we can take the time to be as prepared as possible. Estate planning may not be fun, but it is realistic, beneficial, and a thoughtful way to ensure that your needs, desires, identity, legacy, and property are cared for.
2. You deserve control over your body, identity, and belongings even after death.
An in-depth estate plan is one of the most powerful acts of care that you can do for yourself and your loved ones. Drafting a detailed estate plan allows you to be confident that you, your loved ones, and your cherished possessions and assets are respected and protected even after you’re gone.
A Will and Disposition of Remains allow you to determine who your property goes to, who controls your estate, who receives your remains, who plans your funeral, who determines what you wear at your funeral, who becomes the guardian(s) of your children and/or pets, and all post-death related determinations.
If you die before properly executing a Will (dying intestate), the intestate succession laws of the state in which you reside will determine how to distribute your property. When you die without a Will, you leave huge distribution decisions to be left to the State, which typically honors relationships of a biological nature or through marriage. Intestate succession laws will allow a person’s biological family to inherit even if the family has disowned or abused the person, which is not uncommon for LGBTQ people.
Without a Will, chosen family may be forced to engage in costly litigation to receive your assets or benefits unless you explicitly determine such a right through a valid Will.
In addition to controlling the destination of your assets in your Will, you can protect your body by establishing an Advanced Healthcare Directive and a Mental Healthcare Directive, which inform your doctors and agents about your specific medical desires when you cannot advocate for yourself. These documents provide very detailed requirements for your medical care and end-of-life preferences.
It can be tempting to avoid the process of estate planning, but our experience shows that people feel more relaxed, organized, and protected after drafting a comprehensive estate plan.
3. You can give legal power to your chosen family and community.
A thorough estate plan provides a strong legal foundation to protect yourself and your loved ones by preparing for your future needs as well as honoring your present self and the relationships you’ve developed with your chosen family and community.
Aside from decisions about your property and assets, dying without a Will gives the State the power to choose someone to manage your affairs. This person is called your Executor or Administrator. In addition to managing your property, this person plans your funeral and burial decisions. The person picked by the State is most often a biological family member.
For transgender, gender non-conforming, and queer people, the State-appointed Administrator poses a huge risk should that person choose not to honor the deceased’s gender identity and lived experiences. If you’ve ever seen The L Word (spoiler alert!), you know how Dana’s family talked about her at her funeral.
You can avoid these painful possibilities with intentional estate planning. Trans and queer individuals who rely on a vital community social net or chosen family absolutely need an estate plan to guarantee that their chosen families will have priority in important decisions about their healthcare, legacy, or estate, and to ban the rights of any harmful biological family members. In addition, poly or open couples can benefit from a competent estate plan in order to safeguard rights such as a partner’s right to visit at the hospital.
You can also determine a Durable Power of Attorney, who will then have the right to make your decisions if you ever become incapacitated. This document allows you to define what qualifies as incapacitated for you, and it determines who does and does not have the right to make financial and medical decisions for you if you’re unable to do so yourself.
For queer and trans folks, we find this document to be invaluable when we are faced with biological family members who do not respect our wishes, interests, or loved ones. If you need to designate your partner, best friend, or community member as your voice when you have been incapacitated, the Durable Power of Attorney is for you.
4. You can always change or update your Will.
While a Will is a legal document that will be upheld in the event that anything happens to you, what you write in your first Will is not chiseled in stone. The American Bar Association actually even recommends reviewing your Will at least once a year to make sure the document is still accurate.
At any time, you can amend your Will by executing a codicil (an addition to a Will that changes, explains, revokes, or adds provisions) for smaller updates. For larger, more substantial updates such as divorce, remarriage, winning the lottery, having more children, getting the last child out of the house, etc., you can draft a new Will to replace your outdated one. (But at least this time you’ll be a pro!)
While it will take some paperwork, you can always update your Durable Power of Attorney, Advanced Healthcare and/or Mental Healthcare Directives, Disposition of Remains, and any other documents that you create for your estate plan to better suit your needs and wishes at that time.
5. The Lavender Rights Project offers affordable and trans/queer specific estate planning.
Worried that hiring a lawyer to help plan your estate will leave you without any money for your loved ones? The Lavender Rights Project offers affordable, sliding scale legal services that include comprehensive estate planning tailored to the specific needs of trans and queer people.
Even if you aren’t ready to finalize an estate plan, you can attend one of the Lavender Rights Project’s many workshops that provide more information about Wills, Power of Attorney, Advanced Healthcare and Mental Healthcare Directives, and more while providing folks a place to share their experiences about the impact of end-of-life planning.
You can visit our Events page for more information about upcoming estate planning workshops and other engagement opportunities within the community.
The Lavender Rights Project recommends you do not delay in planning your future. Each individual situation calls for a different kind of estate plan, and the Lavender Rights Project is available to assist you in your complete estate planning process.