Patchwork of marriage laws often leaves same-sex couples unprotected

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer

Lorie Burch
Lorie Burch

On her new webpage directed at the LGBT community, attorney Lorie Burch warns, “If you don’t have a will, the state of Texas has one for you.” And the state will see to it that your partner gets nothing without a fight, she said.

That’s why Burch added an LGBT page to her website with a checklist of documents needed by LGBT families to protect themselves.

“Same-sex couples have no right to hospital visitations, to make medical decisions or inherit property, even if it’s jointly owned,” said Burch.

But with proper planning, couples can be protected.

The cost of preparing the various documents ranges from $800 to $1,500 for most couples, she said. If children or a business is involved, Burch recommends additional paperwork to protect the family members and their assets.

Burch said that in addition to naming who you want to make decisions, “you can name who you don’t want making decisions.” That helps protect against a court naming the person that Texas law regards as a next-of-kin, rather than the person who knows you best.

“Something I’ve been doing a lot lately is adult name changes,” she said.

She said couples are changing their last names for two reasons. One is emotional: “A couple having the same last name is a formal and legal way to feel like a family,” she said.

She said in certain situations such as when traveling or visiting in a hospital, sharing a last name makes things easier. Two people with the same name are assumed to be related.

Burch reminded couples who have been married in other jurisdictions that they need these documents as much as any couple. Texas ignores legal marriages performed elsewhere.

She also warned about not getting legal advice when preparing these documents.

“The cost of doing it wrong,” she said, “far exceeds the cost of doing it right.”

To find the list of documents and agreements recommended for same-sex couples, go online to

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 23, 2010.