A Legal Guide for Lesbian & Gay Couples – Dennis Clifford, Frederick Hertz, & Emily Doskow (NOLO Press)

Buy it now direct from NOLO Press or at Amazon through The Dreamwalker Group.
As an average guy with an education from an average college and zero legal background, I was curious how accessible the NOLO guide would be.  The guide has been around for thirty years and now includes a CD-rom with sample forms for a number of potential situations and necessary agreements or contracts. 
From reading the section on medical power of attorney, I can tell you that the language appears to be as clear as possible, but in general, laws are complicated, and the authors had to present possible pitfalls, revealing how a couple (not just an LGBT couple) might need to do more than simply fill out a state form.  Issues of diagnostic tests, drug treatments, surgery, comfort care and many others are examined, showing how thoroughly the authors want their readers to study the angles before creating a legal document.
As I said, the writing is clear, but for someone with “TV-generation” concentration, it will still take a bit of patience to get through.  
Their section on renter’s insurance also interested me as that’s something I happen to need right now.  They explained why non-married partners might be wise to have separate policies, particularly if records aren’t kept of who owned what.  However, it’s best to have both of those policies from the same company to avoid having different agencies pointing fingers at each other over who should pay a claim.  That seemed like sage advice.   Again, this information is helpful to more than just LGBT readers.
Further perusal of the section on moving in with a girlfriend or boyfriend shows the legality and possible language of “Living Together Contracts.”  At first, I was sure I’d feel that anyone who presented me with such a contract was decidedly untrusting if not paranoid, but as someone who has only lived with one boyfriend, I may be naïve.  Furthermore, such a contract may save a lot of headaches should a relationship fall apart.  They even suggest “Cooling Off Clauses” that give a list of actions (like taking a brief vacation) that each partner will agree to do before absolutely calling it quits.
The book is pretty close to exhaustive, but it isn’t about all the legal troubles an LGBT person might face.  An ex asked me to look up what they recommend if you’re entrapped for indecent exposure in a park, and my reaction was “hmm, they don’t seem to cover that” until I thought, “Of course they don’t.  That’s not a couple’s issue.” (If it is, I congratulate you on being a very fun couple.) Furthermore, they don’t discuss military-related issues other than to say it can be risky for someone in the military to enter into a legal contract that could reveal sexuality.  Nor will the book discuss problems of discrimination unless it pertains to couples such as issues with adoption or landlords.  
The forms on the CD-Rom are, as you might imagine, agreements between two people that aren’t state specific or state-issued (like medical power of attorney), but they include forms for a promissory note, a will, joint purchase, unequal ownership, and living together agreements along with about twenty other forms.  Some of them include things like who agrees to cook or walk the dog that a court can’t or won’t enforce, but the authors believe could be a good idea.  (Again, if a boyfriend presented me with all these recommended forms every time I turned around, I’m pretty sure I would think there was something seriously wrong with the relationship, but maybe I’ve just been lucky to have dated more or less reasonable people.) 
My one recommendation is to always get the most recent edition if there’s a potential legal problem looming.  As marriage, adoption, and discrimination laws are constantly changing, it’s no wonder NOLO has to come out with updated versions just about every other year.  You may not feel the need to document and notarize every aspect of life, but even just reading the book’s suggestions will make you wiser and more prepared for any joint venture. 
Reviewed by Gavin Atlas

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