• Michael Casterlow

Transgender Estate Planning

Updated: Jun 14, 2019

Transgender issues have recently come to the forefront of pop culture thanks to multiple famous faces coming out of the closet with the truth about their gender identity. Individuals who identify as transgender must overcome many obstacles in order to begin to live their lives as their true selves. While Angelina Jolie’s child, formerly known as Shiloh, has also recently demanded to be referred to exclusively as John, the one on everyone’s mind right now is Bruce Jenner, former Olympic athlete and ex-stepfather to the famous Kardashians. These celebrities and their families are preparing for a life under fire for being transgender, showing immense bravery by going public with their gender identity, but they also offer hope to thousands of transgender men and women throughout the world.

Transitioning is a personal, oftentimes private, process that may seem inconsequential to one's financial future. Unfortunately, when it comes to estate planning, being transgender or having a transgender loved one can make things a little confusing from a legal standpoint. If Angelina wills a portion of her estate to her son, John, will it legally go to the right place? If Bruce Jenner wills a portion of his estate to daughter Kendall after fully transitioning, does he have legal rights as her father? However, there are important legal implications that could be detrimental if all legal documents do not match correctly. While planning your estate, it is critical that you are open and honest with your attorney so they can provide the most accurate and beneficial assistance to you.

Finding the Right Help

When it comes to transgender estate planning, it’s imperative that you work with professionals. There’s no way to be completely certain of how to phrase every relationship and clarify every declaration without the help of a professional estate planner, so make sure that your legal counsel has the training and experience needed to help you on the way. Transgender clients should be confident that their attorney is supportive of their gender identity. Your lawyer should be your strongest advocate to ensure the most stable financial outcomes for the beneficiaries of your estate.

Getting Documents in Order

Keeping all names and pronouns consistent across the board on all legal documents is crucial. It might be best to wait until you feel your transition is complete before you start planning all of your estate needs due to the legal implications of complete gender reassignment. If there are inconsistencies with your terminology, you may need to change your: Birth Certificate, Social Security card, Driver's License, Passport, Security Clearances, and/or Professional Licenses.

In North Carolina, changing your name can be a complicated process. Recent changes in North Carolina General Statute (June 2011) have made the name change process more stringent. This is the case for all individuals seeking name changes, not just LGBTQ people. Below are the steps individuals must take to change their name in North Carolina. This process results in a legal name change. Additionally, a new birth certificate will be issued with your new legal name.

To change your name in North Carolina, there are several things that you will need to do that take some time and planning. Request a Name Change Petition at your county courthouse. In many counties, you will find this form in the Special Proceedings Division. You must complete two background checks – State and FBI. These requests take 8-10 weeks to process and require that you get two sets of finger prints. You can have your finger prints taken at the county detention center  (fee – approximately $10 each). Once the background checks are complete you can proceed to the next step. Identify two people who live in your county of residence to fill out Affidavits of Good Character. These individuals cannot be related to you and must be over the age of 18. These affidavits will need to be notarized. Your local bank is a good place to access a Notary Public. North Carolina General Statute requires that you post a Notice of Intent to change your name at the courthouse. The Notice must be posted 10 days prior to filing the petition. It will also need to be time stamped by the Clerk of Courts Office before and after posting. After 10 days, file your petition with the background checks, Affidavits of Good Character, and a pink Vital Records form. Some counties require additional pieces of information be filed with the petition. On the petition, you will be required to provide your name, county of birth, date of birth, the full names of your parents (as shown on your birth certificate), the name you wish to adopt, your reasons for changing your name, and whether your name has ever been legally changed before (if so, you must provide the facts of your previous name change). You can only change your name one time using the NC name change statute, this does not include changes made in other states or assuming a married name or resuming a maiden name. You will also be required to make a sworn statement that you live in the county where you are filing the Petition and whether or not you have an outstanding tax or child support obligations. NOTE: The reason you can provide for requesting a name change is so that it is part of the public record. The Clerk of Court will review your application and make a determination as to whether a hearing is required. If so, you will be required to appear before the Clerk of Court. Once a decision is made, applicants are often notified by phone. Make sure you receive both a copy of the pink order and the Clerk’s written court order.

As mentioned above, some counties require that you submit additional items with your petition. These often include the following:

  • A recent certified birth certificate. You must obtain this from North Carolina Vital Records. The waiting period for this is approximately 12 weeks. For a fee of $15, the request can be expedited (2 week wait). You can also go to the Register of Deeds Office in the county of your birth and request a certified copy of your birth certificate.

  • A title search. This requires that you meet with an attorney. The Title search must include a judgement and civil action check. There will be a fee associated with this service.

  • Attach these additional pieces of information to the Petition. (Some cases may require additional documentation)

Don’t Forget once your name change has been approved, you will need to update your information with several government agencies. This includes changing your name with the Social Security Administration (SSA) and the North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). The DMV requires that you notify them of a name change within 60 days. However, you must change your information with the SSA before you can change your information with the DMV. You must also provide the DMV with “documented proof from the courts or the Register of Deeds establishing that the name change was officially accomplished.”

Keep in mind that changing your pronouns applies not only to you. If your child is transgender, you will need to change his or her pronouns and names on your estate documents.  It may be best to simply use the word “child,” as terms such as mother, father, daughter and son must all be changed.

Family Considerations

Your health, the health of your family members, your family dynamics, as well as your lifestyle goals are all taken into consideration while planning your estate. It’s important you have people named in wills and trusts who you’re confident will execute your wishes. It’s possible that when you die, unaccepting parents or spouses may try and change your final wishes.  It could be easier for them to disobey your will if your documents are not all in order. These problems can easily be resolved by selecting the right individual to serve as your agent under your durable power of attorney and your personal representative or trustee under your trust or will.

Mike Casterlow of The Law Office of Mike D. Casterlow can help. His personalized and professional assistance really makes the difference, giving you and your loved ones piece of mind. Don't wait until it's too late to get the help you need. Schedule an appointment today!