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Florida domestic partnership bill could affect estate planning

A bill recently passed by a Florida Senate committee would give unmarried couples, including gay couples, the right to register as domestic partners. In terms of estate planning, the bill, if eventually signed into law, could have a major effect on unmarried couples' decisions regarding real estate, long-term care, funeral arrangements and inheritance.

Up until now, Florida hasn't recognized unmarried couples, but the bill includes the creation of a domestic partner registry. The Children, Families and Elder Affairs committee unexpectedly passed the proposal by a 5-4 vote. In fact, lawmakers opted not to debate and did not hear testimony from advocates for LGBT rights.

The domestic partnership rights afforded by the legislation would apply only to Florida, so unmarried couples with property and assets out of state would need to account for that situation in their estate plans.

Before it can be passed into law, the bill still has to be approved by four other Senate committees and the state House. In other words, it is still possible that unmarried couples may not get the right to register as domestic partners this time around.

But gay community members and their supporters count the passing of the bill as a victory.

A previous version of the bill was deemed too broad, and the current version is still bound to face criticism.

Married and unmarried couples alike need to be aware of their estate planning options under the current Florida laws. As the rules for estate planning change, updates to estate planning documents are often necessary. Consulting with an attorney with experience in wills, trusts, powers of attorney and other estate planning instruments can help Florida residents preserve their valuable assets.

Source: Pink News, "US: Florida Senate committee approves bill for same-sex domestic partnership registry," Joseph Patrick McCormick, April 3, 2013

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