Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Estate Planning for Same-Sex Married Couples

By:  Susan M. Graham, Certified Elder Law Attorney, Senior Edge Legal, Boise, Idaho 


The legal rights for married same-sex couples shifted in lots of ways with the June 26, 2015 United States Supreme Court decision Obergefell v. Hodges.

Starting with estate planning, married individuals will be able to inherit property from a spouse without paying any death taxes. The surviving spouse will have priority over other family members to administer a deceased spouse’s estate, bring wrongful-death actions, and make medical decisions.

As married persons, same-sex couples have the same property rights in assets accumulated during a marriage as all other married persons. This means divorce laws will apply when a marriage does not work out.

Social security spousal and survivor benefits are available to each spouse. When a spouse dies, the surviving spouse can receive the deceased spouse’s social security benefit, if that benefit is higher than the surviving spouse’s benefit

Married same-sex couples may file joint returns for both federal and state taxes.

Some same-sex couples entered into “domestic partner” agreements as a way to obtain benefits, such as health insurance, for their spouse/partner. A number of large employers, Verizon, Delta Air Lines and IBM for example, provided domestic partner benefits to employees living in states where same-sex marriage was not recognized. The continuation of these benefits after this Supreme Court decision is in question, now that same-sex marriage is recognized in all 50 states.

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