Five years ago at gay pride, Mel and I met two local women who were walking around handing out stickers promoting their new business called Rainbow Law. We spent some time chatting with them, mostly about the fact that we had the same dog (Miniature Pinscher -they had 2, we have one) and bird (African Grey parrot). We exchanged contact info and traded emails a few times afterwards to try to set up a doggy play date but it never panned out. Too bad, it would have been fun.
Anway, sometime late in 2005, we decided we wanted to put some legal protections in place for the two of us. Stuff like health care proxy, living will, etc. Documents that would allow us to speak and act for each other to the extent allowed by New York law in lieu of marriage. I remembered Rainbow Law and went to their website and ordered up a set of documents. The process was easy and after a number of emails back and forth to hammer out details, we got our final documents in the mail in January of last year.
And we never signed them. No reason, really. We just never got around to it. The stuff has just been sitting there.
Last week, Mel said something to the effect of “You know, now that you’ll be spending more time with doctors and may possibly require treatment at hospitals, I don’t want to be ignored in this situation.”
There’s a wake up call. Let’s get moving on this stuff.
So, I got the papers out yesterday and went through them. Doh… they’re all dated 2006! Fortunately, I’d gotten a CD of all the documents with the final copies, so I was able to change the dates and reprint them.
On Thursday, we have an appointment with a notary public. When we’re done with the signing, witnessing and notarizing, we’ll be legal. Well, as legal as we can be for New York. (Let’s hope Governor Spitzer makes good on his campaign promise of introducing a same sex marriage bill in NY this year.)
So, what did we get? Here’s the quick and dirty. For each of us there’s a:
- New York Health Care Proxy – Takes effect if you can’t make your own decisions. Provides instructions for terminal conditions, persistently unconscious conditions, and anatomical gifts. Specifically addresses visitation and decisions about visitation.
- New York Living Will – Takes effect during a terminal condition or in permanent conditions, during which you can’t express your own wishes. Provides instructions about specific interventions that would prolong dying.
- Durable Power of Attorney for Finances – Only takes effect when you’re incapacitated or disabled (as sworn by 2 licensed MDs) and can’t manage your own affairs.
- Living Revocable Trust – Allows you to specify provisions of a trust, including successor trustee and distribution of trust assets.
- Last Will and Testament – Appoints a personal representative and directs that the provisions of the revocable trust be followed to distribute your assets.
In all documents we specify each other as our primary representative, and then we each chose a secondary representative. In my case, I chose my brother. There’s also a number of supporting documents including those that allow you to fund your trust and those that allow you to cancel the power of attorney or resign as a primary trustee (should you ever break up).
I think it’s brilliant really, to create a trust in my own name and fund it by re-titling my asssets so they belong to the trust. The assets are then held in trust and distributed by my successor trustee (to herself) as specified by my revocable trust and will, all while avoiding probate court.
Have you done it? What are you waiting for?