Transgender Adults Can Face Estate Planning Hurdles

(JP Morgan) - Transgender adults can face unique challenges in regard to financial and estate planning, but there are steps you can take to make it easier. Here’s what you can do about it.

This article originally published on the J.P. Morgan Wealth Management content hub.

International Transgender Day of Visibility (TDOV) is a day to celebrate the remarkable creativity, vibrance and fortitude of the transgender community. And yet, when it comes to financial and estate planning, transgender and non-binary Americans often face substantial challenges due in large part to increased financial instability, gender discrimination and legal complexities. We’re here to shed light on the specific hurdles the transgender community can face and offer practical suggestions on how they can navigate and mitigate them.

Updating identity documents

Inaccurate identification poses numerous problems, affecting many aspects of daily life like education, employment, housing, voting, travel and financial transactions. Transgender individuals may face discrimination, harassment, security screenings, detention and violence as a result of presenting inaccurate identity documents.1 "Deadnaming" – using a transgender person's birth name – can lead to trauma, stress, embarrassment and even physical danger.2

So what can be done? Thankfully, since June 2021, medical certification is no longer required to change one’s gender marker on their passport.3 We suggest updating names and gender markers on one’s passport, applying for a formal name change via state procedures, updating both your name and gender with the Social Security Administration and obtaining court orders for added protection. These court orders can be helpful in protecting transgender individuals from government entities or officials who are resistant throughout these processes, and such parties may relent in the face of a court order. The “ID Document Center” website at the National Center for Transgender Equality has the most up-to-date information on specific state policies and procedures, and they offer helpful resources like free legal clinics for those who need them.

Finding a supportive employer

Legal protections against employment discrimination exist, and seeking employment with supportive companies or organizations is very important for members of this community. Over the past few decades, federal laws that prevent employers from firing, refusing to hire, harassing and otherwise discriminating against transgender people on the basis of their gender identity, transgender status, sex assigned at birth or gender transition status have been instituted increasingly. But despite recent legal victories, future court decisions could impact protections.4

What can be done? For starters, inclusive practices by employers, such as non-discrimination policies, transgender-inclusive health care and diversity training, are essential to creating a safe and equitable working environment for transgender individuals.5 What’s more, best-in-class employers tend to ensure inclusivity across various aspects of the workplace.6 To this end, transgender people should carefully research potential employers to determine whether these workplaces look like supportive, affirming and welcoming work environments.

Seeking gender-affirming health care

Gender-affirming health care tends to be prohibitively expensive, leading many transgender individuals into debt or causing them to forgo treatment altogether.7 Many state legislatures are passing laws restricting or banning gender-affirming care, adding to the financial and accessibility challenges.8 Insurance coverage for gender-affirming care varies, with no comprehensive federal law mandating coverage. Transgender Medicaid beneficiaries tend to face disparities in coverage, with potential changes in legislation further limiting access.910

What can be done? If feasible, transgender individuals should plan and budget for the high costs of gender-affirming care as early as possible. If you are insured, carefully review your plan documents to check for any gender-affirming care exclusions. If your insurance policy does cover gender-affirming care, obtain the necessary pre-authorizations to ensure that your coverage doesn’t get denied on technicalities. If you initially denied coverage for gender-affirming care, you can appeal internally and at the state and federal levels, as you can typically overturn this initial denial with your insurance provider.

Strengthening credit

Transgender individuals with updated identity documents may face credit discrimination due to the use of deadnames on credit reports.11 Credit reports impact various aspects of life beyond borrowing money, such as employment decisions, insurance pricing and rental applications.

What can be done? Typically, members of the transgender community must directly contact each creditor and credit reporting agency and adhere to the specific procedures and documentation requirements of each one. Periodically check that the changes are being reflected so that they don’t negatively impact your credit score.

Choosing the right life insurance policy

Transgender individuals may encounter challenges with life insurance due to variations in policy premiums based on their gender assigned at birth. Life insurance applications are often invasive, requiring disclosure of gender-affirming health care history.

What can be done? Consider maximizing group insurance coverage from employers to a level that does not require medical underwriting. If you need coverage without medical underwriting that goes above what your employer offers, work with a general insurance agent who has experience with life insurance for transgender persons – they can shop the entire market for you.

Long-term care considerations

Elderly transgender individuals may struggle to find supportive long-term care settings due to discrimination concerns. Many states still lack legal protections against anti-transgender discrimination in public accommodations and housing.12

What can be done? Consider researching facilities to see if they accept, affirm and protect transgender residents – even well before there is a need. Meet with facility administrators to learn more about the institution’s anti-discrimination policies; there should be protections for transgender individuals in writing. Lastly, it helps to list and periodically update transgender-welcoming facilities in case there is ever a need. In terms of longer-term advocacy suggestions, continue to lobby local and national lawmakers to pass laws that further strengthen protections for transgender individuals.

Legal documents for emergency and end-of-life situations

Transgender individuals typically have special health care needs and face unique discrepancies and obstacles in access to care. What’s more, many cannot speak for themselves in many such circumstances, making it imperative for this community to work with experienced attorneys and trusted advisors to create customized emergency and end-of-life legal documents. These legal documents include health care powers of attorney, advance directives, living wills, wills and/or revocable trusts.13

What can be done? Consider checking that these estate planning documents specifically address the possibility of health care professionals ignoring gender identity and ensure the use of chosen names and gender identity during hospitalization or institutionalization. Agents named in legal documents should be empowered to preserve the individual's appearance consistent with their gender identity post-death, both with medical staff and funeral home workers. Most importantly, try to have these documents prepared by attorneys who have worked extensively with members of the LGBTQ+ community, as laws for these documents are complicated and vary from state to state. Not doing so could see a court deeming these documents invalid or dismissible.

The bottom line

Transgender and non-binary people face significant challenges in financial, legal and estate planning. Widespread discrimination and legal disparities require careful planning, even though some issues unfortunately remain intractable. Nevertheless, allies can support these communities by advocating for policy changes, patronizing transgender- and non-binary-owned businesses and continuing the conversation on how to help shape experiences that make these individuals’ lives more equitable, safe and fulfilling.

By Joseph Hahn
March 25, 2024



1. UCLA School of Law Williams Institute, “Gender Marker Changes on State ID Documents: State-Level Policy Impacts.” (June 2021)

2. Gaskins LC, McClain CR, Visible name changes promote inequity for transgender researchers. PLOS Biology. 2021; 19(3):e3001104.

3. National Center for Transgender Equality, “Know Your Rights | Passports.” 

4. LGBT Map. “Employment Nondiscrimination.” (June 2020)

5. Human Rights Campaign (HRC), “Gender Diversity in the Workplace: A Transgender & Non-binary Toolkit for Employers.” (2023)

6. Ibid.

7. LGBT Map, “PAYING AN UNFAIR PRICE: The Financial Penalty for Being Transgender in America.” (February  2015)

8. The New York Times, “Many States Are Trying to Restrict Gender Treatments for Adults, Too.” (April 2023)

9. UCLA School of Law Williams Institute, “Medicaid Coverage for Gender-Affirming Care.” (December 2022)

10. The New York Times, “Many States Are Trying to Restrict Gender Treatments for Adults, Too.” (April 2023)

11. 19th News, “Credit hurdles for transgender and nonbinary people could be cleared under proposed bill.” (July 2023)

12. LGBT Map, “Nondiscrimination Laws.” (March 2024)

13. National Resource Center on LGBT Aging, “Creating End-of-Life Documents for Trans Individuals: An Advocate’s Guide.” (2014)



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