Veterans: Are You Protecting Your Domestic Partner?

Are you protecting your domestic partner?

Are you protecting your domestic partner?

Remember the old saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure?”  This statement could not be more true for planning your estate.  Let’s take an issue that’s been in the news quite a bit these days:  domestic partnership.  If you have a domestic partner, will they receive your benefits?  What happens if you become gravely ill? If you want your domestic partner to make vital health decisions on your behalf, do they have legal permission?  If you are gravely ill and have minor children from a previous relationship, will your domestic partner have the legal right to care for your children as you wish?

While it’s easy to be fooled into thinking you are protecting your significant other when you’re not, it is also easy to forgo significant benefits for your partner.  One of the most important loving acts you can do for your domestic partner is ensure that they receive all the Veterans benefits to which they are, through you, entitled.

What is a “domestic partner”?  You might be surprised.  “Domestic partner” can mean either a same-sex partner or a partner of the opposite sex.  This is important because people may assume their opposite-sex partner with whom they’ve had a long-term relationship will somehow be considered their common-law spouse and automatically have the rights of a married spouse.  Similarly, people with a same-sex partner may wonder if their partner is eligible for any Veterans’ benefits at all.

As you probably know from popular news stories, domestic partnership can be a complex matter.  One of the complexities is that there is no one single (pardon the pun) rule governing “domestic partnership.”  Since it is important to ensure your partner’s rights are protected as you want them to be, it is crucial to have the right documents and approach for your specific situation.  Details that affect domestic partnership include:

  • Where you live now; and
  • Where you and your partner created your domestic partnership.

There is a lot of misinformation and folklore surrounding common law marriage.  You should know that states vary in their approach to creation and recognition of so-called “common law” marriage.  For example, the Commonwealth of Virginia has quite a few Veterans.  But Virginia does not have common law marriage.  However, under certain circumstances, Virginia recognizes common law marriages created in other states.  Wow.  Given the complexities and possibility for error in planning your estate, consultation with a legal professional familiar with these issues can be a wise move.

Let’s also talk about what happens if you become gravely ill.  That might happen multiple times before the ultimate time.  If you are unable to represent yourself, is your domestic partner authorized to represent you?  What happens to you and your domestic partner if Mom, Dad, Sister, Brother, or your adult children want one course of treatment, but you and your partner want another?  What happens to your minor child whom you had before you met your domestic partner?

If you haven’t had a chance to consider what should happen in case of common-place scenarios such as car accidents and strokes, now might be a great time to better understand your options.  What does a Will cover?  Do you need a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care?  How are these different from a Directive to Physicians?  Should you also consider a Disclosure to the Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care?

Planning now gives you both peace of mind and assurance that those you love continue to benefit from your concern even when you are gravely ill or otherwise no longer to able to take care of them in person.

If you have questions regarding management of your estate to ensure protection for your domestic partner, contact The Law Office of Robert B. Goss, P.C. at:

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