By Dolores Kong
The Boston Globe

When an unmarried couple living together qualifies for
domestic partner benefits, owns a house jointly, or
otherwise gets involved in any number of similar
transactions, financial issues can complicate their

But many of the millions of such couples - whether
same-sex or heterosexual, young or old - don't realize
the implications, which in the long run can be costly,
financial planners say.

"What someone doesn't know could hurt them," said
Debra A. Neiman, a certified planner in Wakefield.

For instance, if one partner buys a new car and
transfers title of an old car worth more than $10,000
to the other partner, "In the eyes of the IRS . . .
that's a gift, subject to all the consequences of
giving a gift that size."

Or a couple who qualify for employer-provided domestic
partner benefits may be paying more than they realize,
because of a little- known provision that such
benefits are considered taxable income.

To address some of these issues as they affect lesbian
and gay couples, what's billed as the first-ever
national conference on this topic for financial
planning professionals is being held today at the
Provincetown Inn. About 150 planners, investment
advisers, lawyers, and insurance agents are attending,
said Neiman, a member of Pride Planners, which
organized the conference.

Among the topics: employee benefits and retirement
planning; tax planning; legal documents and asset
ownership; estate planning; and insurance planning.

Man issues are the same for unmarried couples, whether
they are same-sex or heterosexual, but "I maintain
that straight, unmarried couples and elderly couples
are less aware of this than gay couples," said Lustig,
a financial planner in San Francisco.

For instance, Lustig recounted a story his wife told
him about a woman in her 50s. "She was living with
this guy for 15 years. He says to her, `Honey, don't
worry about it. Everything is taken care of. You will
get the house if I die.' The guy dies. The house goes
to the sister he hasn't spoken to in 25 years. He had
no will."

And even when legal documents are properly executed,
complications arise.

For instance, Nancy, a college professor, said she and
her partner own their house jointly, but "If my
partner went into a nursing home and was going on
Medicaid, I'd have to buy out her half of the house."
A married couple doesn't have to worry about joint
ownership making them ineligible for Medicaid.