Human Rights Week is December 10-17: Focusing on LGBT Elders

Human rights are the fundamental rights which every living person is entitled to, and are considered to be universal rights or laws regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, and sexual orientation. President Obama proclaimed this week, December 10-17, as Human Rights Week to encourage greater awareness of human rights and promote fairness and equality.

In light of Human Rights Week, today we will focus on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) elders and the struggles that they face.  Several federal programs and laws blatantly treat same-sex couples differently from married heterosexual couples.  For example:
  • Social Security pays survivor benefits to widows and widowers but not to the surviving same-sex life partner of someone who dies.  This may cost LGBT elders $124 million a year in unaccessed benefits.
  • Married spouses are eligible for Social Security spousal benefits, which can allow them to earn half their spouse’s Social Security benefit if it is larger than their own Social Security benefit. Unmarried partners in lifelong relationships are not eligible for spousal benefits.
  • Medicaid regulations protect some assets and homes of married spouses when the other spouse enters a nursing home or long-term care facility; no such protections are offered to same-sex partners.
  • Surviving spouses in heterosexual marriages don’t have to pay taxes on their deceased spouse’s estate, while surviving spouses in a same-sex marriage must pay a 35% estate tax on anything in excess of the $5 million exemption (in 2012- Read more about the proposed 2013 Estate Tax Changes).  **The Supreme Court recently announced it will accept two cases involving married same-sex couples from New York and California.  The couple from New York had to pay an estate tax because the federal Defense of Marriage Act defines “marriage” as a union between a man and a woman.  The California case involves California’s Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriages in the state.  Read the New York Times Article. 

We here at Farr Law Firm, P.C. have strategies in place to help LGBT elders and their family members. Visit our website at to find out more.  With advance planning, each person, regardless of sexual orientation, can retain the benefit of the money, income and assets it has taken a lifetime to accumulate.

P.S. We invite members of the LGBT community to make an appointment for a consultation with Farr Law Firm, P.C. to learn more about our services. 

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About Evan H Farr, CELA, CAP

Evan H. Farr is a 4-time Best-Selling author in the field of Elder Law and Estate Planning. In addition to being one of approximately 500 Certified Elder Law Attorneys in the Country, Evan is one of approximately 100 members of the Council of Advanced Practitioners of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is a Charter Member of the Academy of Special Needs Planners.

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