How LGBTQ estate planning is a civil right

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LGBTQ financial advisors, estate planning lawyers and other professionals have launched the The Stonewall Legacy Project, planner Laura LaTourette told Financial Planning.

Named for the 1969 Stonewall Uprising, the older LGBTQ adults who are part of the aging Stonewall Generation are confronting specific challenges related to their identity, according to LaTourette, the founder of Dahlonega, Georgia-based advisory practice Family Wealth Management Group. She is leading a steering committee for advisors as part of the project alongside others for lawyers and nonprofit organizations and their donors.

While the half dozen areas of LGBTQ estate planning covered in the slideshow below could apply to clients of any age, gender or sexual orientation, they can take on special importance to LGBTQ clients. LaTourette said older LGBTQ adults need a place to find a directory of professionals that can serve them with an understanding of their particular needs and a central plan for work that would benefit from their philanthropy. Amid political efforts aimed at restricting LGBTQ civil rights, those missions have turned even more important, she said.

“We’re a priority where it’s necessary for a couple of years, and then it goes on the backburner,” she said. “The AIDS epidemic was handled by the gay community. We were left alone. We were isolated. It was the gay community that saved the gay community. … If we don’t pay attention right now and build out a strong national philanthropic committee, we will continue to be playing defense all the time instead of playing offense and building out our community.”

For an overarching perspective on the most important estate planning issues for LGBTQ clients and their advisors, FP interviewed LaTourette and the following experts:

  • Jana Davis, a financial advisor with Santa Monica, California-based registered investment advisory firm Abacus Wealth Partners 
  • Barbara Bilello, a partner and wealth advisor in the Morristown, New Jersey-based office of RIA aggregator firm Corient
  • Anne Rhodes, the chief legal officer of estate planning technology and advisory firm Wealth.com

Schwartz, the co-chair of the Legacy Project alongside Jerry Chasen, and other nascent participants are seeking “to amplify the push for all advisors working with LGBTQ+ individuals and families to have these truly courageous conversations about funding our movement at death” to “any and all LGBTQ+ nonprofits, whether local, statewide or national,” she said in an email. As “one component of a broad initiative to increase planned gifts to LGBTQ+ organizations,” the project will supplement the “National Planning Giving Initiative,” run by LGBTQ community organization the Horizons Foundation, Schwartz noted.

The project will invite advisors or other professionals serving LGBTQ clients to sign a pledge committing to raise awareness of the generational wealth transfer and the significance of leaving assets to LGBTQ organizations.

“Our plan is to post the pledge we’ve created, and folks can digitally sign it to demonstrate their commitment to this mission,” Schwartz said. “Every advisor who commits to this will have their name and (if they’d like) their contact information listed as a participating advisor. This information will be available on our website and function as a guide to our community.”

With wider awareness, more large RIAs and wealth management firms are investing in units specifically targeting LGBTQ clients with assistance around key services like estate planning. For instance, Davis is part of one such team of seven professionals at Abacus.

“I don’t want any part of the government to decide what happens to my stuff,” Davis said. “Call me jaded. The more I keep the government out of my decisions, for me, the happier I will be, the better I will sleep at night. The good news for my clients is there are the tools. You just gotta get it done. Be vigilant.”

At Corient, Bilello and fellow advisor Lisa Neira “created a specialty practice” focusing on LGBTQ clients, she noted. Once clients have an estate plan in place, “No one can say that your documents aren’t valid,” Bilello said. So it’s “vitally important for this community to get up and get out there and understand what they might be missing” in their plans for the future — because there is one key difference between LGBTQ clients and others, she added.

“Regardless of whether or not you are a member of the LGBTQ community, the lion’s share of the challenges and benefits are pretty similar,” Bilello said. “Their relationships aren’t constantly being scrutinized and debated as to whether or not they are real relationships. The critical piece to this community is, get started, pick up the phone, go to your advisor.”

For insights from experts on a half dozen different areas of estate planning for LGBTQ clients, scroll down the slideshow. For more resources on working with and advocating for older LGBTQ clients, visit the website of civil rights and services organization SAGE.

And find more of FP’s coverage of LGBTQ practice management, industry issues and advisor recruiting moves here:

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