This article purports to list the five legal documents that every same-sex couple in Texas needs for their financial protection. The list includes a will, medical and financial powers of attorney, instructions on disposition of your remains, and a declaration of guardian in the event of incapacity. Sounds like good advice, but I think the author is drastically underselling the potential target audience for this list. Every couple — gay or straight, inside or outside of Texas — that has become financially intertwined with each other should probably have these documents in place.

A couple that depends on each other needs to plan for each other

What do I mean by “financially intertwined?” If you’re living together, that’s a pretty strong indication that it’s already past time to think carefully through what is going to happen if one of you becomes incapacitated or dies unexpectedly. For instance:

  • Are both of you capable of paying the rent or mortgage without the other one’s help, if necessary?
  • If the house is owned in only one of your names, and the owner dies, who gets the house? The remaining partner or the deceased’s family?
  • If you become too sick to care for yourself, is your partner going to be able to access your medical records?
  • If an important medical decision needs to be made for you and you can’t speak for yourself, who is going to have the authority to make that decision for you?
  • Do you both have authority to access every bank account out of which bills are paid for services that you need (e.g., mortgage, car payments, utilities, etc.)?

Marrying your partner can put default answers to at least some of these questions into place that are probably the answers you would want. But if marrying your partner is not an option for you, or if you’ve got other reasons for not wanting to go that route, you still need to plan. In fact, it might be even more urgent that you do so. The documents listed above¬† are often times not particularly expensive or difficult to create (and if they are, it’s because they were even more urgently needed).

Don’t let a emotionally devastating time turn into a financially devastating one too

Every once in a while, you’ll hear about a couple that was together for decades, but when one of them passed away, the survivor’s financial security disappeared too. Although it’s often not possible to replicate every financial benefit of marriage without actually getting married, the risks can probably be substantially reduced. It’s well worth it to give it a try.