LGBTQ+ Elder Legal Rights You Should Know

June 16, 2023

The later stages of life can pose challenges for anyone. This is especially true if you or a loved one are part of a group that faces substantial discrimination. The LGBTQ+ community is such a group. While concern over discrimination may cause anxiety over how an older individual can handle their affairs later in life, the fact of the matter is that individuals have rights that can be enforced. By understanding these rights and contacting a qualified attorney to assist you, it is possible to ensure that your later years and beyond play out in accordance with your wishes.

Elder LGBTQ+ People Sometimes Forego Their Rights Due to Fear of Discrimination

The LGBTQ+ community has historically faced discrimination. This has had a negative impact on the community. According to a report from the New York Office for the Aging, twenty-three percent of the LGBTQ+ community believed they had inadequate healthcare. Furthermore, one-third of this community, over the age of fifty, do not live above the federal poverty level. This rate is substantially higher than those who do not identify as LGBTQ+. These challenges can make elder care especially difficult. This is due to the fact that, as stated in the aforementioned report, LGBTQ+ individuals over the age of fifty are three-and-a-half times more likely to have provided care to friends than have others, implying that members of the community have difficulty accessing care.

Members of marginalized communities often take no action when they have been discriminated against. As a result, discrimination against the LGBTQ+ elder community is likely more severe than what is actually reported. While the foregoing statistics can lead to one believing that they have no rights or that their rights will not be enforced, the truth of the matter is that you have options. 

The Rights Of LGBTQ+ Individuals

The Right to Marry and to Be Treated the Same as Other Married Couples

Multiple 2013 decisions from the U.S. Supreme Court guaranteed same-sex couples the right to marry. This right brings a host of legal rights along with it. Included in these are the right to be treated the same as any other spouse under our state’s intestate succession laws. This means that if a married individual dies without a valid will, then their spouse will still receive a share, if not all, of the estate after probate. Other important rights conferred by marriage relate to retirement benefits, such as Social Security payments and more. Even if you are not married, there are also some situations in which federal and state authorities will recognize same-sex relationships for the purposes of awarding benefits. 

The Right To Create an Estate Plan and Inherit

Those who identify as LGBTQ+ have the same rights as others to create an estate plan. This means that an individual can have control over how their assets will be divided upon death. Through a last will and testament, it is possible to dictate which of your loved ones will receive a portion of your estate and whether others should receive nothing. Also, a living trust can be utilized to help your loved ones with avoiding the probate process altogether. A trust can also provide greater flexibility when deciding how your assets should be divided. Also, no individual may be prevented from inheriting another’s assets due to their identifying as LGBTQ+. Concerns over discrimination should not prevent you from planning how your final affairs should be handled or from asserting your rights as an heir.

The Right to Delegate Financial and Health-Related Decisions

Elder LGBTQ+ elders do not have to be concerned over how decisions will be made on their behalf as they age. You have rights to the same planning tools as the rest of the population. These tools can include a durable power of attorney. This instrument allows you to delegate financial decision-making authority to an individual of your choosing. This instrument can provide as much or as little authority as you wish. Also, it can expire after a particular event or a specified amount of time. It can also be indefinite. Other available tools include healthcare proxies and living wills. These allow you to dictate who may make medical decisions on your behalf in the event that you are unable to do so. You may also spell out specific end-of-life decisions so that your wishes are followed.

The Right to Healthcare

The legal system protects LGBTQ+ elders by granting them access to healthcare. No individual may be denied access to healthcare on the basis of identifying as LGBTQ+. This includes admission to the hospital, the right to procedures, access to medications, and the right to aftercare. Also, a hospital may not deny visitation to loved ones or family members on the basis of gender, sexual orientation, or sexual identity. 

Retaining a Lawyer Now Can Help to Protect Your Rights in the Future

If you are concerned about future elder issues, such as receiving healthcare and how an estate will be handled, then it is important to retain a lawyer immediately. The best way to ensure that such problems do not arise is to have the necessary legal documents and representation in place before an estate plan or care plan is needed. This can help to prevent problems that can be created through discrimination. Counsel will take steps to identify your goals and the best ways to meet those goals. They will also ensure that you have the proper instruments in place so that, in the event that discrimination does arise, your loved ones will have legal rights to assert. 

Contact a Long Island Estate Planning Attorney For Assistance

If you or a family member belong to the LGBTQ+ community, then you have the same elder rights as everyone else. Having an effective lawyer on your side can help to ensure that these rights remain protected. Our firm is dedicated to protecting the rights of all individuals and we believe in providing the highest levels of service. Contact our Long Island estate planning attorney by telephone at (631) 234-3030 or schedule a consultation today.