Two landmark court decisions last week opened new doors for non-traditional couples. And estate planning for such couples will never be the same.
The Supreme Court ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) violates the Fifth Amendment, by denying Federal benefits and programs enjoyed by opposite-sex couples to gays and lesbians who are legally married in their states. Gay and lesbian spouses cannot get tax-free health benefits from employers. They can’t file joint federal tax returns. They’re not recognized for insurance benefits or Social Security, nor the marital estate tax exemption.
The court’s decision says that DOMA unconstitutionally denied Edith Windsor an exemption from federal estate taxes on her wife’s estate, even though New York State, where she lives, recognizes same-sex marriage. This decision affirms the rights of same-sex couples in the eleven other states (and D.C.) that have legalized same-sex marriages. (Florida, of course, hasn’t.)
DOMA, enacted in 1996, defines marriage for federal law purposes as the legal union of one man and one woman.
In another important case, the Supreme Court refused to rule on a same-sex marriage ban approved by California voters in 2008. Instead, they sent the case back to a federal district court there – which had already barred the state from enforcing the law.
Statistics don’t lie…momentum is on the side of same-sex couples. Nearly a third of Americans live in states with legalized same-sex marriage. In the latest Pew Research Center survey, 72% of Americans called legalization “inevitable.” And several more states may adopt legislation soon.
Estate planning for non-traditional couples has always been tricky. And now that the rules of the game are changing, it’s even trickier.
If you’re part of a non-traditional couple, you’ve probably got a lot of questions. We can answer them.
At The Law Offices of Alice Reiter Fled, we’ve been addressing estate planning problems for South Florida families – all types of families – for the past 34 years. And we’ve helped them secure their futures, and their wishes…with comprehensive estate planning, wills, trusts, powers of attorney, long-term care planning, asset-protection plans, and assistance with Medicaid and the VA.
No matter what type of family you’re in, we can help. And we’re just a phone call away.