Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Marriage Equality Creates Estate Planning Opportunities and Consequences

The recent decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in Obergefell v. Hodges  made clear that same-sex couples have the right to marry nationwide.  In so holding, all states must formally recognize same-sex marriages that were legally entered into in other states.  In addition, states cannot deny applications for marriage licenses for individuals of the same gender.
The ruling clarifies that same-sex married couples now have the same legal rights that are enjoyed by opposite-sex couples.  It allows same-sex married couples to take advantage of estate planning techniques historically afforded only to husband and wife.  At the same time, it also raises issues concerning the property rights and obligations of same-sex couples who have already been married for a number of years.
While marriage equality may now be universally recognized across the nation, state laws of descent and distribution are no substitute for creating a customized estate plan that clearly reflects one’s wishes. State laws often produce undesired or unintended results, especially in an area where legal rights have only just been pronounced and may apply retroactively.  Good reasons apply equally to all persons to proactively plan for the orderly distribution of their estate in documents that will be legally respected in the event of death or incapacity.
Please contact us for a free 30 minute review of your estate plan to make sure it follows your wishes.

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