If you are a member of the GLBT community, or even if you are not, you likely know that the Supreme Court of the United States, or SCOTUS, made a historical decision recently in the case of U.S. v. Windsor. In short, the definition of marriage used in the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, was found to be unconstitutional. While SCOTUS did not legalize same-sex marriage across the nation, the decision may have that effect in the years to come. In the meantime, what the SCOTUS decision did do was make over 1,000 federal benefits available to same-sex couples that were not available when DOMA was the law. Many of those benefits are in the area of estate planning, including:
- 1. Beneficiary designations – same-sex spouses can now receive Social Security benefits and veteran’s benefits as well as be named beneficiaries on qualified retirement accounts.
- 2. Portability – a married same-sex couple can now count on portability. Portability refers to the ability to use any remaining portion of your spouse’s lifetime exclusion from gift and estate taxes.
- 3. Gift and estate taxes – A same-sex spouse can now gift or bequeath an unlimited amount of assets to his or her spouse without incurring gift and estate taxes.
Be sure to consult with your estate planning attorney to determine what estate planning changes after Windsor you may need to make.