Effective July 1, 2008, Maryland enacted two new laws that give additional rights to domestic partners (both same-sex and opposite-sex partners). The first adds domestic partners to the list of individuals who may be added to or removed from a deed without incurring recordation and transfer taxes. The second affords domestic partners several new rights, including the right to make hospital visits and funeral arrangements.

The first new law defines a “domestic partnership” as a relationship between two adults who are not related by blood, are not married, share a common residence and “agree to be in a relationship of mutual interdependence in which each domestic partner contributes to the maintenance and support of the other domestic partner and to the relationship….” This law requires evidence of a domestic partnership, which includes a signed affidavit by both individuals confirming the domestic partnership and two additional indicia of the domestic partnership. The additional evidence can include the following:

  • Joint liability for a mortgage, other loan or lease;
  • The designation of the partner as the primary beneficiary of a life insurance policy or retirement plan;
  • The designation of the partner as the primary beneficiary under the other’s Will;
  • Durable power of attorney for health care or financial management granted to the partner;
  • Joint ownership or lease by the partners of a motor vehicle;
  • A joint checking account, joint investments, or joint credit accounts;
  • A joint renter’s or homeowner’s insurance policy;
  • Coverage of the partner under the other partner’s health insurance policy;
  • Joint responsibility for childcare; or
  • A relationship or cohabitation contract.

Once a domestic partnership has been established, the instrument of writing that transfers residential property between the domestic partners, or former domestic partners under certain circumstances, is exempt from recordation and transfer taxes.

The second new law defines a domestic partnership in the same manner as the first and has the same requirements regarding proof of the domestic partnership. Once the domestic partnership has been established, domestic partners are afforded new rights regarding health care facility visitation and medical decisions, including the following:

  • Domestic partners and their children have the same traditional visitation rights as were previously afforded only to spouses and certain family members.
  • In the case of a medical emergency, once a domestic partner has explained, in good faith, to the emergency care personnel that he or she is in a mutually interdependent relationship with the injured party, he or she should be allowed to ride in the emergency vehicle and be admitted to the hospital on an emergency basis.
  • Domestic partners are allowed to share a room in a nursing home.
  • Domestic partners can make health care decisions regarding a partner who is incapable of making informed decisions.
  • Domestic partners may have priority over the decisions regarding organ donation.
  • Domestic partners can provide consent for postmortem examinations.
  • Domestic partners may have priority over the final disposition of his or her partner’s body.