Education Legal

Election-Proof Estates: Weathering the Trump Agenda

Quick tips and expert strategies to help you brace for November 3rd (and beyond).

I recently read this book on Medieval history and in it the author made a remark which, when viewed through the lens of 2020 and our democracy’s systematic unraveling, was oddly reassuring. In essence, everyone hates the Medieval period. It gets a bad wrap because it was smelly, life sucked, and folks were all-around barbaric (Relatable). It was so terrible they called it the Dark Ages. Conversely, there is universal adoration for the Renaissance, with all its romance and works of fine art, music, science, and astronomy. However, what people don’t think about is that without the struggles and advancements of the Medieval period, the Renaissance couldn’t have happened. In many ways, it feels as though we are experiencing the lingering growing pains of a modern Dark Age, which, with any luck, will culminate in the birth of a new Renaissance.

That said, I woke up yesterday morning feeling invigorated after a double XP evening spent recharging with some sapphic friends under a rare blue moon on Halloween, as lesbians do, and thought it’d be a great idea to put forth a game plan of sorts should this election go tits up and Punxsutawneywe Trump curses us with two more years of Dark Ages.

Whether you consider your level of political engagement good, bad (shame!), or indifferent (DBL SHAME!), I have cobbled together a last ditch effort a few options to match your level of GAF, ranging from low to high effort; All of which are more immediately feasible than fleeing the country.

And if by some miracle we have a positive result on November 3rd, fear not! Your efforts will not be in vain, because things will still be terrible for a while and this holiday season, specifically, the best gift you can give your family is peace of mind, knowing that you have a plan in place should something happen, like maybe that second wave of COVID we’re expecting in three-ish weeks. 

Low Effort: 

These items are entry-level documents that will relay to those around you what you would like to have happen, pretty please, upon your passing. They are the weakest of legal protections, and perfect for the non-believer archetype in horror movies who, oblivious to the creepy, suspicious, and terrifying goings on around them, hears hoofbeats and thinks Drag Queens.

  • Write a letter of intent

Not at all legally binding, but a great directional tool to take the pressure off the ones you’ll leave behind. A Letter of Intent is a personal, comprehensive (re: exhausting) letter expressing your desires and special requests. It may include information regarding burial or cremation, or a specific bequest of collectibles or personal items. 

  • Appoint a funeral agent

Find someone you trust and appoint them as your ‘funeral agent.’ This can be done by completing an Appointment of Agent to Control Disposition of Remains form. The rights of the funeral agent supersede the rights of all others, including spouses and other relatives, such as children and parents. This is where specific instructions about a viewing, makeup and dress preferences, and specific funeral home and cemetery could be added. 

Please note that not all states recognize funeral agent appointments! Click here to learn more about designating who will be your legal next of kin.

  • Secure the bag

Name your partner(s) as the beneficiary on all accounts: checking and savings, life insurance, any investment or retirement accounts, and Health Savings Accounts (HSA’s). That way, if you cannot bring yourself to create a will or trust, you know you’ve done the minimum to secure your loved one’s stability.

Low Effort Extra Credit: Organize your important info! See our round up of helpful EOL planning tools for suggestions on where and how to store your passwords, accounts, personal info, and more.

Medium Effort: 

This level has elements of lite estate planning, but it is mostly for puzzling together as much right of survivorship protections as possible, without the benefit of marriage or legal partnership. 

  • Set up an advance directive

This hybrid document is a one-two-punch combining the powers of a living will (spells out out your end-of-life decisions, like whether or not you want to be kept on life support) and a health care proxy (the person who you have nominated as tribute to make these wishes a reality). 

For states that do not recognize appointed funeral agents, they may use the advance directive, should it exist, to determin legal next of kin.

  • Set up a will/trust

This one is evergreen. Money, or even just the perception of it, makes people do ugly things, so write a will if you are single or married. Set up a trust if you are part of an unconventional family structure (polyamorous and/or platonic relationships that are neither romantic or sexual), or if you and your honey are in a unregsitered domestic partnership. 

What’s the difference between a will and a trust? There’s a lot of minutia, and I am not a lawyer, but the main point is probate (legal process establishing validity of will). Wills are meant to protect familial assets, and as such can be contested during the probate process by blood relatives with a legally recognized (bloodline) claim to one’s assets. A trust, on the other hand, is not subject to probate, which makes it the more secure option for unmarried partners or other beneficiaries.

Please, please, please, whatever route your choose, just do not make the mistake of dying intestate (without a will) and risking your loved one’s futures being divided piecemeal amongst opportunistic blood relatives!

Click here to learn about other essential estate planning documents.

High Effort: 

Pass ‘Go’ and collect $200, because you have right of survivorship, baybee. Estate planning is still important, but when you cash in your chips, your partner essentially reaps all the rewards by virtue of being legally tied to someone as wonderful and forward thinking as you.

  • Regsiter as legal domestic partners

In these formerly-enlightened times of gay liberation, domestic partnerships may seem antiquated or a lesser alternative, but for those who aren’t interested in or ready for capital ‘M’ marriage, but still want to protect their family, the benefits of a domestic partnership are still pretty major. Becoming legal domestic partners creates a clear path to receiving various benefits that guarantee right of survivorship, hospital visitation, and others, without needing to armor oneself with a slew of legal paperwork (see Low and Medium above). Additionally, domestic partners are eligible to partake in each other’s employer-sponsored benefits, so that’s pretty sweet.

  • Get married

If you’re of a mind to do it, what are you waiting for!? If the conservative establishment has its way, this could be one of the first liberties on the chopping block.

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