Areas of Practice:

Elder Law
Estate Planning
Wills and Trusts
Estate Administration
Trust Administration
Real Estate

Civil Unions and Estate Planning

The Colorado Civil Unions Act became law on May 1, 2013.  This new law gives people in same sex relationships the same benefits and protections and the same responsibilities as married spouses.  But not all states recognize Civil Unions and some states recognize same sex marriages.  What happens if someone enters into a Civil Union in Colorado and they move out of state? And since the federal government does not recognize Civil Unions, how does someone in a Civil Union file federal income tax returns?  These are just a few questions that come to mind since Colorado passed its Civil Unions Act.  It is still very important to see an attorney who specializes in estate planning to protect your rights and the rights of your partner. 

A party in a Civil Union now has statutory priority to serve as a personal representative for his or her partner’s estate; a statutory right to inherit property from his or her partner; a priority to make disposition of the last remains of his or her partner and the right to make anatomical gifts.  The parties to a civil union also have standing to receive benefits under the Workers’ Compensation Act and the right to have standing to sue for wrongful death.  They have the right to initiate nursing home complaints for each other, make medical decisions for each other and challenge a living will made by the other.  A party in a Civil Union has the right to get health insurance as a dependent from a partner if the employer gives such rights to those with a designated beneficiary agreement. A Civil Union revokes a Designated Beneficiary Agreement.

There are still some rights that a party to a Civil Union does not have; rights that are available to married couples.  A party in a Civil Union does not have the right to make financial decisions for the other party without a Power of Attorney.  There is also no right to release medical records to a party in a Civil Union without a Medical Power of Attorney because HIPAA is a federal law.  It is still important for parties in a Civil Union to execute wills, health care powers of attorney, general durable powers of attorney and living wills.

There are many issues that are unclear under the Colorado Civil Unions Act including how to file federal taxes, insurance issues, adoption issues and divorce.  Seek the advice of a Colorado attorney who is familiar with the Civil Unions Act for more information.

This article was written by Tamra K Waltemath of Tamra K. Waltemath, P.C.  This information is for general informational purposes only and does  not constitute legal advice.  For specific questions, you should consult a qualified attorney.

Tamra K. Waltemath is an elder law attorney focusing on wills, trusts, estate and trust administration, probate and non-probate transfers, guardianships and conservatorships.  She can be contacted at:  Tamra K. Waltemath, P.C., 3843 West 73rd Avenue, Westminster, CO  80030; 303-657-0360; or visit her website at:


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