Thursday, February 26, 2009

Same-sex couples provide booming business for lawyers, financial planners

Around the United States, there are a number of law firms and businesses that focus almost entirely on helping same-sex couples. Of course, the nature and market for these partnerships would change in states that have accepted same-sex marriage (Massachusetts and Connecticut) because of judicial decisions, and it would change if California’s Proposition 8 is eventually overturned or reversed politically.

Nolo Press (with “Directory M”) has a small website with a guide to legal resources, here.

Frederick P. Gabriel-Deveau wrote an article for Worth Magazine in February 2006 covering the same-sex law business in Florida, which for some legal and paralegal professionals is quite lucrative. The article appears in the Best Practices: Estate Planning series and is called “The Puzzling Problem of Same-Sex Estates”. The link is here . Some of the comments come from Miami attorney Richard C. Milstein. To quote one particularly important passage, “Consider, for example, the "unlimited marital deduction," which allows one spouse to pass an unlimited amount of money to the other without paying federal estate tax. In the case of a gay couple, the surviving partner would face federal taxes of up to 48 percent on estates that exceed $1.5 million.”

I remember reading the Worth article on a flight to New Orleans in 2006, and discussing it with a passenger in the next seat, himself a young lawyer. Curiously, while I’ve been approached about becoming a financial planner (in 2005), I’ve never seriously thought about the same-sex couple business as one to “round up” and create for an established insurance or financial company. I guess it's not my temperament to chase leads.

For some students in law school, same-sex couple law is still likely to provide a booming business for years to come, perhaps sad to say, given all the state constitution angry amendments around the country.

There could be a hidden silver lining in the most “conservative” of these amendments (such as Marhsall-Newman in Virginia) that try to prohibit civil unions and relationships that partially “imitate” marriage. Virginia actually added its amendment to its state “bill of rights” as if to suggest that people should not be forced into intimate relationships of support (such as aging parents) that they don’t want. Given our issues with demographics today, that could lead to some interesting situations, perhaps as unintended consequences.

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