End-of-Life Planning Tips for the LGBQT+ Community
In 2014, Jennifer Gable, a transgender woman, was presented as a man at her Idaho funeral. Though she had legally changed her name in 2007, her family chose to refer to her incorrect former name, cut her hair and have her dressed in a suit in an open casket ceremony.
Though the laws governing the end-of-life apply to everyone, stories like these make clear that LGBQT+ concerns may make planning for end-of-life especially important to people who may have different choices than their legal next of kin might make for them.
Death Positive founder Caitlin Doughty explains, “If you do nothing, the person with all the power will be your next of kin.” Doughty says that while “we want our government and our laws to protect our rights to keep us safe from bigotry and discrimation. But the fact is, until that unambiguously happens, we also have to protect ourselves and our community.”
According to Karen Purze of the Life in Motion Guide blog, basic estate planning documents are not different, but same-sex couples and LGBQT people may want to consider some key issues.
If you don’t plan on having your biological family make healthcare decisions for you at end-of-life, you need to explicitly name a healthcare agent with a healthcare power of attorney document. You should also name a backup. You may also want to create a hospital visitation rights document so you can have the hospital visitors of your choice, including non-family members who play a role in your care.
Purze says your agent can be directed to order providers to respect your gender identity and expression, including the correct name to use (whether it has been legally changed or not) and the correct pronouns. Purze says there’s some example language here on the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging website.
In 2015, the Supreme Court established a right to same sex marriage in the U.S. But completing documents like the ones below can help assure that spouses can make important decisions about health or finances at end-of-life for their loved ones. These documents can be even more significant for partners who are not legally married.
Resources and documents
Our friends at planning site Cake worked with Doughty to create resources for the community including living wills, health care proxy and funeral agent forms.
DIY estate planning site Trust and Will also offers online forms to get started including Durable Financial Power of Attorney (POA), Living Will, Medical Power of Attorney (POA) and HIPAA authorization.
According to experts, since state laws differ, everyone should also consider talking to an attorney after they do a little research.
“We all have the right to live and die confident in our identity, and have our ultimate wishes respected,” Doughty explains.
You can find additional information from the Hospice Foundation of America, LGBTAging Center, EveryQueer.com and Lambda Legal’s “Tools for Protecting Your Wishes for Your Funeral.”
SAGE – Advocacy for Services for LGBT Elders, 877-360-LGBT, is another good resource for many kinds of assistance including legal help.
Online Events of Interest
LGBTQ+ Pride Stories with Life Story Club, Reimagine
Conversation with Pamela Sneed, author of Funeral Diva, Stonewall National Museum & Archives.
Death Cafe Palm Springs, sponsored by PALS, Planning Ahead for LGBQT Seniors.
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon