Yesterday morning, the U.S. Supreme Court delivered a landmark decision: the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a federal law that offered federal marriage benefits to only opposite-sex marriages in the United States, was struck down. With the overturning of the statute, same-sex couples challenging DOMA have achieved a clear victory: DOMA had impacted over 1,100 federal laws – from veterans’ benefits and family medical leave to Social Security and tax benefits – all of which are now available to married same-sex couples just as they are to married opposite-sex couples.
Yesterday’s ruling will have widespread estate and tax planning implications for the nearly 130,000 married same-sex couples in the United States because they will now have access to, amongst a host of other benefits, the following*:
- Immigration rights, including eligibility for benefits;
- Social Security retirement and disability benefits;
- Veterans’ benefits, including pensions, nursing home care, educational assistance, and housing;
- Equal income and estate and gift taxes as opposite-sex couples; and
- Employment benefits, including employer-sponsored health benefits and the right to unpaid leave to care for a seriously-ill spouse.
Additionally, as a result of yesterday’s decision, California will likely become the 13th state to legalize same-sex marriage – boosting the incentive to properly create and execute an estate plan consistent with updated laws. Also, for legally married same-sex couples who have moved or now live in a state that does not yet recognize same-sex marriage, there are still obstacles towards accessing federal marital protection.
If you have any questions regarding your estate plan and the legal consequences that current changing laws have on your rights and your partner’s rights, please contact the experienced estate planning attorneys at Lonich & Patton for further information. The attorneys at Lonich & Patton have decades of experience handling complex estate planning matters, including same-sex estate plans, and we are happy to offer you a free consultation.
Please remember that each individual situation is unique and results discussed in this post are not a guarantee of future results. While this post may detail general legal issues, it is not legal advice. Use of this site does not create an attorney-client relationship.
*U.S General Accounting Office, Defense of Marriage Act, GAO-04-353R (Washington, D.C.: January 23, 2004) (listing federal statutory provisions involving marital status).