Welfare
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Social welfare issues faced by older LGBT+ people

Older LGBT+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans) people can face social and legal issues that are often overlooked. These are problems that their heterosexual counterparts might not experience.

This page gives an overview of the kind of issues that you might need to support your older LGBT+ clients in dealing with.

Probate claim risks

LGBT+ people may be more likely to be involved in a probate dispute, or to leave an estate that is subject to claims. This is due to issues such as:

  • being unmarried and in long-term relationships with informal financial arrangements
  • deciding not to have children, who are usually the 'standard' recipients of your estate on your death
  • being removed from or even disowned by their family, which can cause hostility over sensitive issues such as inheritance  

Older transgender people can often be referred to by previous names in wills that have not been updated. While this would not normally be an issue, family members who are not supportive of the person's transition may try to take advantage of this.

You may need to remind your older LGBT+ clients that their marriage or civil partnership can make an existing will invalid (unless the will was entered into in anticipation of marriage or civil partnership).

Elderly care

Research from the International Longevity Centre UK showed that elderly LGBT+ people face higher rates of loneliness and ill health, prejudice, and misunderstanding around their identity when they access health and social care.

Residential care can lead to increased isolation for LGBT+ people. They can lose their social support circle and often feel the need to 'go back in the closet'. Coming out to a series of medical and social care professionals can be extremely uncomfortable.

Friends of older LGBT+ people do not have the same status as spouses and children. This means they’re legally powerless to help their older LGBT+ friends who need care.

A 2011 Stonewall survey found that:

  • 61% of LGB people were not confident that social care and support services would be able to meet their needs (51% for heterosexual people)
  • 47% of LGB people would not be comfortable being open about their sexuality to care home staff
  • 70% of LGB people did not think they would be able to maintain a comfortable degree of privacy in a residential care home (61% for heterosexual people)

Using a solicitor

Older LGBT+ people are often more likely to need a solicitor to help with things like:

  • a relationship breakdown or divorce
  • selling a property
  • making a will

Instructing a solicitor will involve talking about private and sensitive personal information, and some older LGBT+ clients may not be comfortable doing this, particularly if they grew up in less open communities.

Resources

Opening Doors London 
Information for LGBT+ people (Age UK)
Advice for people who work with older LGBT people (Age UK)

With thanks to Paul Maddock, associate in DWF's commercial litigation team and LGBT+ Lawyers Division committee member, for the content of this guide.