Florida Domestic Partnership Information
Domestic Partnership | Florida Information
Gay and lesbian couples cannot get married in Florida. Instead, they must enter use legal documents to ensure they have many of the same state rights that marriage provides.
There is no statewide Florida domestic partnership registration that covers residents everywhere. Instead, cities and counties are free to enact their own. Currently the best way to obtain the most rights as a Florida same-sex couple is to enter into an domestic partner package, which includes a will, health care directive, power of attorney, an advanced healthcare directive, HIPAA authorization, a living will, and a pre-need guardian designation.
I’m a domestic partnership attorney in Orlando, Florida, but I help couples throughout the state. Most of my practice is helping same-sex couples form legal relationships. For my clients that live outside of Orlando, I provide services remotely through email and phone–there is no need to come to my office.
The Domestic Partnership Package
The Domestic Partner Package that I provide for my clients includes the following documents.
Will. For gay and lesbian couples in Florida, a will is vital. Without one, upon your death your property gets distributed according to state laws. These state laws do not provide for your partner. It does not matter how long you’ve been together with your partner at all–your partner will get nothing. A will protects the surviving partner and ensures that he or she is taken care of.
Living Will. A living will ensures that you are treated how you want to be treated if you become terminally ill. It will let you dictate how much life sustaining treatment should be used under certain circumstances. Without this document, whether or not to use life sustaining machinery can be a divisive family issue.
Designation of Health Care Surrogate. This document lets you specify your partner as someone who is allowed to give informed consent for surgical and diagnostic procedures or any other medical treatment. Without this document, your partner will have no say in what happens to you if you are incapacitated.
Durable Power of Attorney. With a durable power of attorney, one person can act on behalf of the other person for financial decisions. As to which specific actions that person can take, that’s up to the language in the actual power of attorney. Same-sex couples need a financial power of attorney to ensure that, if one person is incapacitated for whatever reason, the other person can still access the family property and make decisions over that property. This document is not included for every couple–it depends on how I assess your needs during our initial conversation.
Declaration of Pre-need Guardian. When someone is incapacitated for a long duration, a court will want to designate a guardian over that person to report on his medical well-being. Without this document, your same-sex partner will not be the designated guardian–instead someone else will be appointed by the court.
HIPAA Authorization. A HIPAA authorization makes sure that your doctors can disclose medical information about you to your partner. Without this authorization, your partner cannot get any information about your medical condition should you be in the hospital for whatever reason.
For a small percentage of couples, I also recommend a domestic partnership agreement or a trust. This will be something we talk about on our first phone call or meeting.
A Local Domestic Partnership Registry Isn’t Good Enough
For those that live in a city or county with a local domestic partnership registry, keep in mind that these registrations will for the most part do you no good outside of where you live. Plus, the protection from these local registries are relatively low.
No registry in Florida can compare to the rights you would obtain by entering into a domestic partner package. By having an attorney help you draft a few documents, you can ensure that your relationship is protected no matter where you are and no matter where you travel. Unfortunately, no local registry can do the same. If you’d like help getting a complete estate plan for you and your partner, contact me. I do this kind of work every day, and I’m happy to help.
How to Get Started
The best thing you and your partner can do to legally solidify our relationship is to get a domestic partner package. Contact me to get started. We’ll go over which documents you need, how to customize them to your relationship and needs, and the costs.
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