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Facing our legal issues
By Justin Nichols, QSanAntonio.com, September 8, 2012

QSanAntonio is proud to announce that attorney Justin Nichols will be writing a monthly column about the legal issues the LGBT community faces because of our inequality under the law. In this introductory article he talks about the important documents each of us should have in order to protect our partners and our families. As we go forward we invite our readers to send in their legal questions so that we can all benefit from his insights.

We hear a lot about this ballot initiative, that court case, or that new policy. But what does it all mean to LGBT folks? Living in Texas, we know all-too-well the state doesn’t offer many protections for LGBT people. It’s easy to feel vulnerable and at the mercy of a discriminatory boss or the unaccepting family of a partner. But I want to help fix that.

My goal working with QSan Antonio is to help readers address the unique legal issues faced by the LGBT community. And, I promise, no question is too small or stupid. Most lawyers will tell you some of the seemingly oddest questions can be the issues dozens of people wonder about but are too worried to ask. So bring em’ on!

First things first, there is a certain set of documents every gay and lesbian person should have – especially if you have a partner. These documents should be readily available to the entire community, regardless of your economic status. So here it goes. Download these forms (keep a few blank copies for updating later) and get to it!

Hospital Visitation Authorization

The last thing you want is for there to be a fuss over who can see you in the hospital, if God forbid, you’re sick or injured. Complete this form, have it notarized, and make copies. Give a copy to your friend or partner, your doctor, and throw one in your glove box just for good measure. Click here to hospital visitation form.

A Will

If you die without a will the law decides what happens to your stuff. The law doesn’t care if your dad was a judgmental ass or if your sister beat you when you were kids. If you die without a will, here’s where your things go: first to your spouse (of a Texas-recognized marriage, so those Massachusetts marriages don’t count…yet), then to your children, then to your parents, then to your siblings, and finally to your next of kin. This is a very simplistic version of a will, and should only be used if you want to give everything you have to one person. You have to execute the will in a certain way – you need a notary and two disinterested witnesses. If you need a notary and witnesses, call my office and come by. We’ll do it for free. Click here to download this form.

A General and Medical Power of Attorney

There are two types of power of attorneys. One is a general power of attorney which gives a person you designate to handle your personal business affairs (bank accounts, insurance, etc.). The other is a medical power of attorney which gives a person the power to make medical decisions in the event you’re incapacitated. You can simply complete these forms and make sure you give a copy of the medical-related form to your doctor, and a copy of the general power of attorney to any important business entities, and keep the original on hand in case you need it. Click here to download general power of attorney. Click here to download medical power of attorney.

Of course, if you have any questions about the forms it’s best to talk to an attorney – or heck, send me the question and maybe it will appear here in QSan Antonio. Wills and estate planning can be very complex, so if you have any questions at all, it’s best to ask someone. The forms I’m providing are not intended to be a substitute for individual legal advice by an attorney.

I’m looking forward to answering your questions, and I think we’ll both learn a lot in the process. Dove season just started, so happy hunting, and I look forward to hearing from you soon!

Justin Nichols is a sixth generation Texan.  He was born in San Antonio, attended Plano public schools, received his bachelor’s degree from Southern Methodist University, and attended law school at St. Mary’s University.  He now owns The Nichols Law Firm, PLLC, which focuses on family and consumer-related legal issues.  QSanAntonio readers can send their questions to Justin at qsanantonio@thenicholslawfirm.com.