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LGBT issues spotlighted at financial/legal planning event
by Carrie Maxwell, Windy City Times

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Don Martin ( MetLife financial services representative ) and Michelle Sinkovits, Esq. ( partner at Greenberg & Sinkovits, LLC ) co-presented the "Planning With Pride: Marriage Equality Didn't Fix Everything" event on May 3. At one point, they commented that 63 percent of LGBT people say they feel underserved in both the financial and legal realms.

Martin and Sinkovits decided to hold this event to help bridge that gap and provide the LGBT community with the information they need to navigate these realms.

The event focused what people need to know to navigate family planning as a member of the LGBT community as well as how they can best legally and financially protect their family. They also touched on the specific financial and legal issues facing the transgender community.

Sinkovits noted that her firm does family law and estate planning, while Martin said he works specifically with the LGBT community.

Martin explained that there are very few members of the LGBT community working in the financial services industry and that can pose a problem for those within that community who are seeking those services.

Sinkovits said that although Illinois made some changes to their parentage and marriage and dissolution of marriage laws in 2016, not all of these changes are good. She explained that same-sex couples have to create contracts and/or go through the adoption process to legally become parents if they aren't the birth mother.

Martin spoke about the various ways same-sex couples can become parents, including adoption, surrogacy and in vitro fertilization treatments. He noted that all of those options involve additional costs, except in the case where the state pays a couple to adopt an older child to get them out of the system.

When a same-sex couple goes through a divorce proceeding, the courts only look at the time in which the couple was legally married, not the years prior to that marriage and that puts these couples at a financial disadvantage since marriage equality is relatively new for most of the country, said Sinkovits. She explained that one of the ways this can be remedied is by drawing up a prenuptial agreement but that involves additional costs.

In terms of legal and financial agreements, Martin stressed the importance of having them in place and signed off by an attorney.

Sinkovits noted that although there is nationwide marriage equality, same-sex couples should still have their powers of attorney documents with them when they are traveling.

Martin explained that while same-sex couples have specific additional financial costs; transgender people have their own financial concerns including paying for hormones, therapist visits and in some cases gender confirmation surgery as well as the legal costs to get their documents changed. Martin noted that transgender people also face additional insurance costs due to the mental nervous rider that is placed on their insurance for the rest of their lives.

The LGBT Chamber of Commerce of Illinois hosted the event while MetLife and Greenberg & Sinkovits, LLC sponsored it.

This was the first in a series of financial and legal events Martin and Sinkovits will be holding for the LGBT community. The next one is slated to take place in September.

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