Yetta G. Kurland Answers Your Real-Life Legal Questions About Legally Protecting Your Relationship


Dear Yetta:

My partner and I are putting together legal documents to protect our relationship. What is the difference between a health care proxy and a living will? Also what does it mean to file as Domestic Partners versus a Domestic Partnership Agreement?

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Simple but important questions.

A health care proxy and living will have loosely similar meanings, but generally speaking, a health care proxy is a legal document that allows an agent (your partner, for example) to discuss your medical situation with health care providers and make health care decisions in the event you are incapable of making such decisions for yourself. A living will, also known as a medical directive, can do the same but is normally tailored to cover specific directives about the care, or more commonly, withholding some type of care in the event you do not want it. These issues can be combined into one fairly simple yet important document.

Filing as domestic partners, however, is very different from entering into a private agreement called a domestic partnership agreement, or a prenuptial for married couples. You should discuss this with your attorney before making any decisions about filing, or entering into a contractual agreement. But, in the most basic sense, filing as domestic partners or as married (I’m happy to say New York State has recently recognized same-sex marriage from other jurisdictions) changes your legal status so you are no longer single. This creates statutory rights and obligations to one another.

These rights and responsibilities can be modified by entering into a private agreement, such as a domestic partnership agreement, so that they accurately reflect your wishes within the partnership, regardless of whether your status is married, domestic partners or single. The important thing here is that you understand your options so that you are able to make the decisions that accurately reflect how you choose to define your relationship, and so that you and your partner decide, rather than a Court, what would happen in the event of a dissolution of your assets.

*This column is not a consultation with an attorney and should in no way be construed as such or as a substitute for such consultation. Anyone with legal issues or concerns should seek the advice of her own attorney.

© 2012 GO NYC MEDIA LLC. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission. See original here.