An estate plan is more than just a term for end-of-life planning. It encompasses many decisions that can affect you during your life as well. While all of us would like to live a long and healthy life, the unfortunate reality is that people in the United States have a higher chance of dying before the age of 50 compared to those in other high-income countries as evidenced by a 2013 research study published by the National Academy of Sciences. More importantly, a research study using data from the United Kingdom found that transgender individuals have 34% to 75% higher mortality rates than their cisgender peers. With this information in mind, it is important to not “push off” and postpone your estate planning because none of us can know what tomorrow may bring and it’s best to be prepared. You also may have some unique concerns that should be addressed in your estate plan to avoid unintended consequences for yourself and your family.
Selecting a Health Care Proxy
A health care proxy is someone you appoint to make health-related decisions on your behalf in the event you are incapacitated. The forms naming a proxy typically include a HIPPA release which enables your proxy to review your medical records, which otherwise would be kept private. Unfortunately, many transgender individuals have family or friends who do not respect their gender identity making it potentially more difficult to choose a proxy. It is essential to carefully select the person in your life that is the best fit for this role. Your health care proxy should honor and respect your gender identity, especially if you have a complex medical history that may be shared with your proxy if needed.
Getting a Name Changed and Updating Relevant Documents
It is imperative for transgender individuals to ensure they have the same name on all important documents. If you have not begun the name change process in New York and wish to do so, you must first submit a petition to the court and thereafter publish notice of the court-issued name change.
You should update your driver’s license or ID card and social security records with the name and/or gender with which you identify. Having a uniform name on all important documents is essential because issues can arise when a will or trust is in one name, and your documentation is in another. Clearing up inconsistencies such as these is time-consuming and costly as they require court intervention.
Considering the Impact of Unsupportive Individuals
As mentioned previously, an unfortunate reality for many transgender individuals is that they have family members who do not respect their gender identity. When drafting an estate plan, you should nominate people other than these individuals for roles like executor, trustee, and even guardian of minor children. However, it may be helpful to go further and specifically exclude these family members from being involved in those roles in your estate planning documents. You can always revise your will or trust if relationships are repaired with hostile family members.
These are just a few of the factors that should be considered when making estate-related decisions. It is best to work with a knowledgeable and experienced estate planning attorney who is aware of these and other nuanced issues and can help you develop a plan that makes you feel safe and secure about your choices. If you or a loved one need help with estate planning or are unsure about where to begin, contact one of our trusted estate planning attorneys.