The cities of Gulfport and St. Petersburg appear poised to follow in the footsteps of Tampa, which is expected to approve a domestic partnership registry for unmarried couples in a few days. Gulfport City Council members are scheduled to discuss a similar ordinance during an April 19 workshop. The ordinance would give same-sex and unmarried heterosexual couples the right to make medical decisions for each other if either one had been incapacitated, and to be contacted as a family member if a partner were in an accident.
Absent a "domestic partnership registry" or allowing gay marriage in the state, there is another easy way to achieve the same goals. Good estate planning by domestic partners can go a long way toward providing several essential legal benefits.
First and foremost domestic partners can enter into a domestic partnership agreement, a legal contarct that spells out the legal aspects of their relationship as it relates to ownership or real property and personal property, as well as responsibility for car loans, leases, and other obligations.
Second, a "health care power of attorney" will provide domestic partners with assurance that they may be designated to make important health care decisions for each other, and to be present in a hospital and not told by family members to leave.
Third, a "durable power of attorney" allows domestic partners to make financial decisions for each other in the event that one is unable to act on their own behalf.
Fourth, a "living will" spells out each partners desires regarding being kept on life support in the event of a terminal condition for which recovery is unlikely.
With these documents, most domestic partners will have legal rights that would not otherwise have been available to them, even with a domestic partner registry.
For more information on domestic partnership agreements and estate planning for domestic partners, contact: Scott and Fenderson PA, at 727-321-0099. Free consultations available.