Berman & Asbel, LLP

Estate planning needs presented legal hurdles for 'dad' and 'son'

Laws set the ground rules for how we operate as a society. Because every state has its own laws, each state also has its own persona or brand if you will. It's a characteristic that can even filter down to the city level, which is why Philadelphia is known as the City of Brotherly Love.

But the law doesn't mean all our lives are regimented and the same. That would fly in the face of notions of independence and self determination. In response to the realities, experienced lawyers look to apply a certain level of creativity to try to make it possible for clients to be brought under the umbrella of a particular law without abandoning who they are.

This may be particularly true in matters related to estate planning and family law. The two are deeply intertwined. And as the story of two Pennsylvania men reflects, sometimes the combination can create something of a legal tangle. Fortunately, in this case, the law seems to have caught up with the situation of this same-sex couple.

Their foray into the legal jungle began in 2000 when they moved from New York to Pennsylvania. The couple had been recognized as domestic partners in New York for decades, but Pennsylvania didn't recognize that relationship. So in order to maintain a certain measure of rights, one adopted the other and they became father and son.

They say adoption was the only way at the time for them to address their estate planning desires and ensure that if one of them was hospitalized, the other would be able to visit and get health information.

Last year, after Pennsylvania's ban on same-sex marriage was lifted, the men, now in their 70s, wanted to marry. But their father-son status was a roadblock.

Last week, the barrier was removed when a judge in Bucks County vacated the adoption. The couple was married last Sunday. It's reportedly the first time in Pennsylvania that this particular scenario has been played out. 

We suspect many would agree that it reflects creative legal management.

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