By Hudson, Mike
The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
On the surface it seems like a good idea. Gay couples want legal benefits--and can't get married--so they consider forming a limited liability corporation, or LLC.
By doing so, the relationship becomes recognized by federal, state, and local governments as a legal partnership. Assets are co-owned and there is a set legal precedent regarding disagreements, sales, and other shared responsibilities.
The trend toward gay couples rotating LLCs has been more talk than action, however. Many are intimidated by the legalese and financial acumen necessary to successfully form one. And even the experts discover it makes more sense to go a more traditional planning route.
"It seemed like a fancy, cool way to get around (the lack of marriage recognition) by forming a single economic unit," says Dana Levit, CFP, principal of Paragon Financial Advisors in Boston. Levit considered the process for herself and her partner, Leslie Smith, but decided against it. "In the end it looked like there might be so many complications that it might not solve anything," Levit says.
For starters, opening an LLC can cost upward of $1,000. Thereafter, owners must pay an annual renewal along with the standard legal fees if any problems crop up along the way.
The transfer of property has to pass a legal challenge if questioned by relatives or any other interested party. So, despite the protections, those with LLCs may end up defending their interests in court anyway.
Jennifer Hatch, managing partner of Christopher Street Financial in New York City, says she has seen clients express interest in the LLC option. But the only ones who have taken action on it have legitimate business interests.
"They tend to own a business anyway, so it makes more sense for them," she says. "For most people, you can do the same things with normal estate planning."
Gay couples still have the rights of any two individuals to enter into contracts, wills, and other legal agreements to simulate the rights of marriage.
The most important thing to think about is real estate. If you own property prior to moving in with someone else, it's important to put who owns what into writing. If you share the mortgage or down payment, make sure to document that. …