Whether you’re a wealthy celebrity or just the average Joe, there comes a time in everyone’s life where it’s necessary to start the process of estate planning, or preparing to pass on your various belongings and investments to your loved ones. This can be a stressful purpose for anyone, but there are few situations in which it needs to be handled with as much care as for transgender individuals.
Transgender issues have recently come to the forefront of pop culture thanks to multiple famous faces coming out of the closet with the truth about their gender identity. While Angelina Jolie’s child, formerly known as Shiloh, has also recently demanded to be referred to exclusively as John, the one on everyone’s mind right now is Bruce Jenner, former Olympic athlete and ex-stepfather to the famous Kardashians. These celebrities and their families are preparing for a life under fire for being transgender, showing immense bravery by going public with their gender identity, but they also offer hope to thousands of transgender men and women throughout the world.
Unfortunately, when it comes to estate planning, being transgender or having a transgender loved one can make things a little confusing from a legal standpoint. If Angelina wills a portion of her estate to her son, John, will it legally go to the right place? If Bruce Jenner wills a portion of his estate to daughter Kendall after fully transitioning, does he have legal rights as her father?
The American Bar Association, thankfully, has some advice on these questions. First and foremost, if you or a loved one are preparing to start the process of estate planning as a transgender individual, you need to have all the proper identification documents; birth certificates can be amended in 47 states, but not necessarily for gender assignment. If you or a loved one are in the process of transitioning, it may be best to wait until the transition is complete to do heavy estate planning due to the differences in legal status and legal relationships that can be brought on by complete sexual reassignment.
Forbes and Investopedia offer some simple tips for estate planning that can easily be modified to apply to transgender individuals. Make sure to declare which of your loved ones is to inherit what belongings or investments clearly and concisely, with a legal understanding of their relationship to you. Remember that “parent” and “child” are legal terms as much as “father,” “mother,” “son,” or “daughter.” If you have a child in the process of sexual reassignment as you’re planning your estate, discuss their intended legal name with them and use “child” to make sure they have legal claim to whatever inheritance willed to him or her.
Work with a team to plan your estate. When it comes to transgender estate planning, it’s integral that you work with professionals. There’s no way to be completely certain of how to phrase every relationship and clarify every declaration without the help of a professional estate planning team, so make sure that you legal counsel has the training and experience needed to help you on the way.
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