Friday, January 28, 2011

Estate Planning: Trusts for Your Pets

Massachusetts has become the 44th state to permit residents to create legally enforceable trusts to provide for their pets’ care in the event of the owner’s death or disability.

The new law, which goes into effect in April, allows pet owners to create and fund a trust for the care of their animals after their owners have died. The trust appoints a trustee, selected by the owner, to care for the pet and disburse trust funds accordingly. The trust remains valid until a date specified by the owner or until the animal dies. Trustees are specifically prohibited from using any of the funds for purposes other than the care of a pet.

You can read the full text of the law here:

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Equal Rights for Hospital Visitation

On Tuesday, January 18, 2011, new regulations concerning hospital visitation go into effect.   These new regulations require all hospitals participating in Medicaid and Medicare programs – virtually every hospital in the country – to permit patients to designate visitors of their choosing and prohibit discrimination in visitation based on a number of factors, including sexual orientation and gender identity.  These Regulations were promulgated at the urging of President Obama after learning of a tragic situation in which an LGBT family was kept apart as one of  the couple lay dying in a hospital bed.  As a result of these regulations, for the first time, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people and their families across the country will have federal protections for a simple, yet immeasurably important right – to be able to be together when illness strikes.  For more information, click here to go to the Human Rights Campaign’s Hospital Visitation Guide.

While this is a great victory, it should be noted that a number of health care issues related to LGBT individuals aren’t covered by the new regulations.   It remains crucial to have the proper legal documents in place that will, among other things, permit  one domestic partner to make health care decisions on behalf of the other.