Same-Sex Marriage Ruling Could Have an Effect on Estate Plans

Many of us across California have done some thinking about the future. We may have a retirement plan in place and may also have a will or trust set up as way to protect the welfare of our families and loved ones. Many folks also have living wills, powers of attorney or even community property agreements in place. But many folks in California may want to readdress any or all of these types of estate plans.

The U.S. Supreme Court recently overturned the Defense of Marriage Act. The controversial law was in place to limit the federal recognition of same-sex marriage. Because the federal government did not recognize same-sex marriage, many couples were unable to access the same financial planning resources that opposite-sex couples could. This is why it may be crucial for those who are directly impacted by this ruling to make sure that they update their financial plans accordingly.

Same-sex couples may want to make sure their partner is listed as a primary beneficiary on bank accounts, bonds, retirement funds and life insurance policies now. This can ensure that a surviving partner will have access to all these accounts after a person passes away. It can be important to remember, though, that adding a person as a beneficiary means that his or her family would be able to contest terms of this arrangement.

It may also be appropriate to address any retirement fund plans that may be in place. Now that the federal government recognizes same-sex marriage, any couple may be able to set up beneficiary IRAs instead of traditional IRAs, which has a significant impact on how this money is taxed.

Any couple may now have access to spousal benefits, which could impact a couple’s life insurance policies that are in place. Inheritance taxes may also be avoided now when one spouse inherits property from another.

Now that DOMA has been overturned, there will likely be some confusion on a state level regarding federal benefits. Not all states recognize same-sex marriage, which can make it very confusing for folks to understand their rights and options when it comes to estate planning.

Source: Forbes, “New Financial Planning Essentials For Same-Sex Couples,” Holly Kylen, June 26, 2013