What Wealth Managers Need to Know about Working with Same-sex Couples

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The Census Bureau estimates there are approximately 620,000 same sex households in the United States, a number that is expected to grow. Many financial advisors are increasingly seeing this demographic as a possible gold mine.

Studies show that same-sex couples on average have higher per capita income, are better educated and have more discretionary income, Bill Moran, a senior vice president of wealth management at Merrill Lynch, tells eFinancialCareers.

Moran heads Merrill Lynch’s national Lesbian Gay Bi-sexual Transgender (LGBT) financial services team. He says Merrill Lynch was the first Wall Street company to form such a team. The team works closely with a growing number of financial advisors within the firm who are interested in this niche market, he says.

Working with same-sex couples has its rewards and its challenges. Here are some things financial advisors should keep in mind:

Legal Challenges

Despite the growing number of protections for gays and lesbians, the federal government doesn’t recognize gay marriages.

“LGBT couples don’t have the same legal protections that traditional marriage couples have,” says Moran. He adds that financial advisors need to work closely with clients and their attorneys to ensure that income streams and benefits are protected when one partner dies.

Know what you’re getting into

“Since…this is a relatively new area of both tax and
 civil law, I would highly recommend that financial professionals have some
 training before venturing into this arena,” adds John Kristianson,
 an investment executive at Trilogy Financial Services.

Get involved in the community

“Personally one of the best ways I’ve found to meet gay
couples is to be involved in the community,” says David Rae, Vice President of Client Services at Trilogy Financial
 Services, who works closely with gay couples.  “There are a variety of charity
 events, galas, and fund raisers seemingly nightly in the larger cities.

 only will you have the opportunity to meet centers of influence in the
community, the odds of meeting successful gay couples are quite high. I
would also take it a step further and make sure to take pictures at the
 event with guests. You can extra mileage from you support of the LGBT
 community by posting photo on your website and social media accounts.”