Yes. If you’re part of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender community, a Living Trust offers protection for your estate, as well. It will completely eliminate a living probate, a death probate, and you can minimize or eliminate estate taxes. Further, it provides privacy from prying eyes.
Yes. The default in state law, called “intestacy,” is designed with married couples in mind. If a married couple dies without any estate plan, the survivor will get a good portion of the assets left behind. However, if you’ve not married, or you are in a state that does not recognize domestic partnership or civil union, your survivor would get nothing. Instead, the family of origin of the partner who died would get anything in that partner’s name, including bank accounts, real estate, etc.
Only your Will is a matter of public record. Your Revocable Living Trust and your Powers of Attorney are not public. Therefore, by using a Revocable Living Trust you can maintain the privacy of your wishes. Prying eyes of co-workers and neighbors will not have access to the details of your estate plan.
Maybe. Federal law allows married couples to give each other an unlimited amount of property without gift tax during life or estate tax at death. Federal law does not recognize non-marriage relationships. However, each person gets to give up to his or her tax exclusion during their lifetime to anyone they want. But, any use during lifetime reduces the amount available for transfers at death. In addition, anyone can make a gift to any other person, called the Annual Gift Tax Exclusion, without gift tax and without reducing his or her estate tax exclusion.
Unless your spouse or partner has adopted your minor children, a court would decide what would be in the child’s best interest. Typically, your family of origin and that of the child’s other biological parent are given preference by the court. However, in your last Will, you can nominate your spouse or partner to be the guardian for your minor child. The court will then give weight to your suggestion while weighing what is in the child’s best interest.