Delaware Online:  For gay and lesbian couples, embracing a life as loving partners can be just as fulfilling, and just as challenging, as a marriage between a man and a woman.

 When it comes to finances, though, such relationships can become even more challenging to pull off successfully.

 While Delaware's new law allowing civil unions has smoothed over some of the potential pitfalls, gay and lesbian couples remain in something of a legal limbo and face far more peril than married couples when it comes to ensuring that assets pass smoothly to a surviving partner.

 “With a same-sex relationship, some of the key things to be aware of are the rights of the partners in the event of the unexpected, addressing ‘What would happen if?' ” said Bridget Erhard, a Newport-based certified financial planner with Ameriprise Financial, which markets its services to same-sex couples.

 In response to the new law, some financial planners, attorneys and accountants are tailoring services specifically to the unique and still-uncertain circumstances that arise when domestic partners are not “officially” married in the eyes of the law.

In Delaware, the differences are now not as sharp, thanks to the passage of the Delaware Civil Union and Equality Act, which was adopted last year and took effect New Year's Day. But when it comes to the federal government, the law remains relatively blind to the notion of civil unions, creating a mix of conflicting rules, and potential risks, for couples who want to minimize taxes and protect family assets.

 Yet even as the professional community recognizes the market potential of financial planning for gays and lesbians, some couples remain dangerously unconcerned.

 “We have people who completely take the ostrich approach” when it comes to financial planning, said Jarrett Morris, a certified financial planner with Diamond State Financial Group. “They stick their head in the sand and they deal with it later.”

Continue reading about financial and estate planning for gay and lesbian couples.