The issue of same-sex marriage has been a subject of much debate in the United States for several decades now. If you are part of a same-sex couple, or just a supporter of the LGBT community, you are undoubtedly aware of the recent ruling by the Supreme Court of the United States, or SCOTUS, in Obergefell v. Hodges which finally put the issue to rest by declaring state bans on same-sex marriage to be unconstitutional. Though you may have already realized many of the more obvious ways in which the ruling will impact your life as part of a same-sex couple, you may not yet have considered the impact the ruling will have on your estate plan. The same-sex ruling by SCOTUS may be reason to revise your estate plan if, like many other same-sex couples, your current plan was devised with the prohibitions against same-sex marriage in mind.
In the 1970s states began passing laws or constitutional amendments prohibiting same-sex marriage in the state. Not surprisingly, the LGBT community fought back by challenging those bans and amendments. In 1996, the Defense Against Marriage Act, or DOMA, appeared to seal the fate of same sex marriage by defining marriage, for the purpose of federal law, as “between a man and a woman.” DOMA did more than lower moral, it effectively made same-sex partners and spouses ineligible for an estimated 1,000 federal benefits that heterosexual spouses are entitled to by law by virtue of being legally married. Although it took almost two decades, the definition of marriage found in DOMA was finally found to be unconstitutional by SCOTUS in 2013 in the landmark case of Windsor v. U.S., a case that centered on an estate planning issue. The broader issue, however, of whether same-sex marriage bans were unconstitutional, remained after Windsor. Obergefell v. Hodges settled the issue once and for all by declaring marriage to be a fundamental right and that under the 14th Amendment’s protections, “couples of the same-sex may not be deprived of that right and that liberty.”
If, like so many other same-sex couples, your current estate plan was designed around the uncertainty surrounding same-sex marriage in the U.S. until the recent decision it may now be time to review and revise your estate plan. Knowing that same-sex marriage is now here to stay you may have considerably more freedom to design your estate plan the way you want to, not just how you need to thanks to the SCOTUS decision.
If you are a member of a same-sex couple and wish to review your current estate plan, contact the experienced Missouri estate planning attorneys at Amen, Gantner & Capriano, Your Estate Matters, LLC by calling (314) 966-8077 to schedule an appointment.