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Estate planning may soon change radically for gay couples

Gay couples everywhere are faced with different financial parameters than their heterosexual counterparts. Even couples in states, like New York, that recognize same-sex marriages, they can not claim the same financial rights or benefits as spouses in male-female marriages. Social security death benefits, pension benefits and more are not allowed for married gay spouses.

However, gay married couples in New York and other states that allow same-sex marriages as well as Washington, D.C. may soon need to re-evaluate their financial and estate planning. The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is the legislation that today prevents gay couples from claiming the same benefits as heterosexual married couples. A decision is expected any day which may overturn the act, declaring it unconstitutional. If this happen s, married gay couples residing in states that recognize their marriage would be able to file for the same benefits as any other married couple.

There are many gray areas to be worked out if DOMA is repealed, including how to handle a situation where a married gay couple moves from a state that recognizes their marriage to a state that does not recognize their marriage. Additionally, assets held in states that do not recognize the gay marriage may be governed under different laws even if the couple resides in a state where their marriage is legal. There are more than 1,100 federal benefits that have previously been unavailable to gay married couples.

The effects of the overturning of DOMA, if it happens, could be far reaching and complex. Homosexual married couples could see a wealth of new benefits come their way if properly planned for. Couples wanting to prudently secure their assets and protect their spouses would be wise to get the counsel of an estate planning attorney and to have their plans reviewed regularly.

Source: Investment News, "Financial l ives in flux as DOMA decision awaited," Liz Skinner, June 23, 2013

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