Gay couples in the state of New York got some good news recently when the Empire State joined Massachusetts, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, and the District of Columbia as places in the United States that are issuing marriage licenses to people of the same sex. This of course gives gay people the same legal rights that go along with marriage that heterosexual people have always enjoyed.
When gay marriage was not recognized in New York estate planning was an absolute must for people in committed long-term domestic partnerships. If you die without having a will in place intestacy laws of succession hold sway, and because of this your partner would have a difficult time staking any claim to your property.
In a similar manner, your closest blood relative might be assignmed to make health care decisions on your behalf rather than your partner if you did not execute the appropriate documents, such as a durable medical power of attorney and/or a living will. There have actually been cases when hospital visitation rights have been denied because the party that was ill did not execute the appropriate documents.
Now that gay people are allowed to get married legally in the state of New York, people who are engaged in these partnerships do in fact have rights. However, this does not mean that estate planning is no longer important.
For one thing, married heterosexual people have always had every reason to engage in estate planning to enable the efficient transfer of assets to their loved ones. There are significant sources of asset erosion out there, such as the estate tax and costs associated with probate. So everyone should take advantage of opportunities that exist to mitigate such erosion through intelligent and informed estate planning.
In addition to this, you never know if marriage between people of the same sex will remain legal in the state of New York forever. It is best to assert your wishes in a legally binding manner so that they are honored regardless of how the laws stand at the time of your death.