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Another Florida county plans to enact domestic partner registry

The county of Sarasota is moving forward on plans for a domestic partner registry. Two cities within the county, Sarasota and Venice, already have registries. The county's registry would allow residents of the county who live outside those cities' limits to register and protect certain unmarried partners' rights.

Registering would allow unmarried domestic partners, of whatever gender, to visit their partners in the hospital and plan funerals for a deceased partner. However, county commissioners want to make clear that such a registry would not protect rights that need to come from the state or federal government such as health care, tax or estate benefits.

There is a trend in Florida, as elsewhere, for municipalities to set up domestic partner registries. While often mentioned in the context of same-sex relationships, these registries apply to any unmarried couple that qualifies under the standards set out. What is important to understand about these registries is that, while they may protect some rights, they are not a substitute for careful estate planning.

Regardless of whether an individual is married, in a registered domestic partnership or simply in a long-term relationship, proper planning for the future is indispensible. A valid will, and other documents, such as correctly constructed powers of attorney and medical directives are the best way to ensure that a person's wishes are followed, and that a life partner has the ability to make decisions that he or she needs to make. It is essential that Floridians in all counties explore the legal possibilities of an estate plan, to best protect the financial and emotional well-being of their partners.

Source: heraldtribune.com, "Sarasota County domestic partner registry moves forward," Dale White, June 5, 2013

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