Supreme Court Changes Estate Planning for Married Same-Sex Couples

Female gay couple"The Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution guarantees a right to same-sex marriage."

The recent Court decision has changed financial and estate planning significantly for same-sex couples, including taxes and retirement planning.

In The Kansas City Star's article, "Your financial planner: A guide for same-sex couples," married same-sex couples are advised to be aware of these changes in order to take advantage of the benefits.

When figuring out your income taxes, married same-sex couples are now able to file a joint state tax return, along with the federal joint return, which should make things easier. In addition, Social Security for married same-sex couples has changed, granting both partners access to their spouse's work record and benefits—which could be higher than their own individually.

Now a spouse can leave property to the surviving spouse without paying estate taxes when the first spouse dies, and a married survivor in a same-sex couple also now is under the state's intestacy statute. If a married person dies without a will, the state will typically give more property to the surviving spouse than other family members.

From an estate planning perspective, the process remains the same. When reviewing your assets, it's important to check how accounts are titled and make sure the primary and contingent beneficiaries are correct. If the couple has created a revocable trust, assets must be titled in the trust's name where appropriate and used on the beneficiary lines, according to their estate planning attorney's instructions.

When an IRA passes to a beneficiary, spouses get special tax treatment because of a spousal rollover provision. A surviving spouse of a same-sex married couple can now delay taking distributions until age 70½ and delay IRA distributions over their own lifetime.

Finally, gift taxes previously applied to transfers of assets exceeding $14,000 between same-sex couples, but now the law allows gifts of any amount between them under the unlimited marital deduction.

The case Obergefell v. Hodges changed the landscape for same-sex married couples in 2015. If you're a partner in a same-sex marriage, you'll want to speak with your estate planning attorney and take advantage of these new benefits.

Reference: The Kansas City Star (February 17, 2016) "Your financial planner: A guide for same-sex couples"

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