Putting Inclusivity Into Estate Planning: A Story for Pride Month

Pride flags in Christopher Park shared for Pride Month

Pride flags in Christopher Park, New York City, NY (photo by Jana R. McCreary, October 2019)

In late June 1969, police once again raided the Stonewall Inn in New York City. A community that had been oppressed for too long finally spoke out more loudly and more visibly than ever before, and the Stonewall Uprising and riots began. Change began.

From Stonewall to Pride Month

A year after the Stonewall Uprising, pride celebrations started to take form. Initially, they commemorated that anniversary with Pride Day on the last Sunday in June. The recognition eventually, though, spread across the entire month of June. The month was officially recognized as Pride Month by presidential proclamation in 1999 and has been so recognized in many years since. The month not only celebrates diversity and achievements in equality, but it also includes memorials to those lost to hate crimes and HIV/AIDS.

A Special Pride Month in 2015

Change began especially on that June night in 1969. And change continued. Of course, often, change is slow. Then again, sometimes when it finally arrives, it seems sudden. (But I have no doubt those who have worked hard for it never felt it to be sudden.) Whether it felt too slow or too sudden, on June 26, 2015, the United States Supreme Court brought more change. The Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges put an end to banning same-sex marriages. Finally, across the nation, people of the same gender could marry each other in every state.

Pride Month and — Estate Planning?

What does any of this have to do with estate planning? It might seem to be a minor way to many people, but as Obergefell was working its way through the court system, and as Florida was starting to recognize same-sex marriage earlier that year of 2015, in wanting to make sure all couples found estate planning with McCreary Law Office inclusive, change had to happen here too.

In estate planning, to strive to cover everything and to be able to provide the best, most individualized advice, a law office must gather a lot of information about clients’ lives. And estate planning is one of those areas of law where a couple often jointly hires an attorney. This means that the gathering of that information is often gathering of the couple’s information. So shortly after McCreary Law Office opened in 2014, I redesigned my forms. Long-accepted labels of a couple just did not work for everyone. Instead of labeling people as husband or wife, spouses are spouses: Spouse 1 and Spouse 2.

Inclusivity for One Means Inclusivity for All

When I made the change of not using husband and wife to label spouses on my forms, I did it for inclusivity. But once I was able to let go of using labels as they had always been used, other areas made more sense.

Over the past six years, one of the things that I learned along the way is that usually one of the spouses in a couple is the person who completes the paperwork. These days, with the new online forms the office uses, this also means that these forms need to be tied to a particular email address – the one for that spouse who usually completes the forms. Sometimes this is a wife; sometimes it is a husband. Sometimes, it is the wife of a wife or the husband of a husband.

I cannot predict who in a couple will be the information-provider. So I cannot label such a box in advance. But that's okay because I stopped using the labels some time ago. It turns out that adapting to be more inclusive of same sex couples also improved the information gathering for all couples. Now, whichever spouse in that couple is the information provider, is Spouse 1. It just makes more sense.

Working with All Estate Planning Clients

McCreary Law Office works with singles and all types of couples – including those who’ve decided not to get married – to complete their estate plans. In gathering information, the office is also constantly trying to make it smoother for clients, investing this year in new systems and software services to keep it as streamlined as possible. And how some of that is done? Well, now you have a little bit of that back story.

An added note for this year’s Pride Month:

I walked through my neighborhood this morning and saw some rainbow banners on a balcony, and I thought about writing a post. I thought about the photo I took in Christopher Park this past October when I visited Stonewall Inn and the Stonewall National Monument in the park, and I wanted to include that. But then I was stumped. I will admit that this year in particular, during this week when so much is happening with racial injustice, I paused. I want to be an ally in both arenas. Do I write this? Should I share this? Is writing this ignoring the other? Then I found this statement by the president and CEO of GLAAD, “There can be no Pride if it is not intersectional,” and I looked inward.

And I sat down at my keyboard.


Categories: Estate Planning