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It’s All In The Genes

In a recent article I wrote for Trusts & Estates, a wealthmanagement.com magazine for estate-planning professionals (October 2012), I looked at the latest ability to glean genetic information, and how it may affect estate planning and taxation issues.

"It's All in The Genes" touched on the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, known as GINA, which was signed into legislation in 2008 by then-President George W. Bush. The intent of GINA was to ensure that, as researchers continue to discover ways in which individuals may be genetically predisposed to certain illness, they are not then discriminated against in the areas of health coverage, insurance, and employment.

GINA was signed in at the federal level; California also passed its own version of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, which is intended to cover a broader area than the federal legislation. It bars genetic information discrimination in the areas of education, employment, housing, lending, and public accommodations. GINA as it currently stands federally does not include privacy protection when it comes to life insurance, disability insurance or long-term care insurance. How genetic information will be used in those instances in the future is still uncertain. While individuals would want to keep their medical information private, genetic information that affects life expectancy is of obvious relevance to life insurance underwriting decisions and other areas where medical issues and insurance issues come into play.

Genetic research is still, in many ways, in its infancy. What the future holds for genetic research will surely have far-reaching legal repercussions. For example, genetic information may inform an individual of likelihood that he will develop Alzheimer’s Disease. With that information, he is likely to consider how the cost of long-term care can be paid while protecting assets for his family. He may make tax-wise changes in his investment and estate planning.

Michael Gilfix is an estate planning attorney in Palo Alto California and is one of the pioneers of elder law. To learn more, visit Gilfix & La Poll Associates LLP at https://www.gilfix.com/.