With DOMA [The Defense of Marriage Act] on the books state laws allowing same-sex marriage are of limited use. For example, a same-sex couple who gets married in New York or Massachusetts (which have no residency requirements) may find their new marriage disregarded by another state they live in or move to or might receive an inheritance from.
All the votes are in and counted – they have been for some time – but for all the media’s talk and declarations that it was just a status quo election at the federal level, gay marriage advocates see something entirely new across the states. As you likely know, three new states approved same sex marriage: Maine, Maryland, and Washington. What does that mean for same-sex partners and their potential estate plans?
With the three newest states to uphold same-sex marriage, that makes an official total of nine states plus the District of Columbia, plus an assortment of 12 other states with various forms of “civil unions” and “domestic partnerships.” It’s a good sign for advocates, but all the same it’s important to remain in perspective, as put by Forbes staffer Deborah Jacobs not too long after the election: “Gay Marriage Scores Victories In All Four States That Considered It, But Tough Road Lies Ahead.”
For planners, being able to take care of one another and your family, either with legal rights or transfers of assets, is a matter of balancing the right legal appointments, documents, and tax codes. But same-sex couples occupy a strange place that requires a steady hand: states vary greatly even when they permit same-sex marriage, the institution that opens up so many planning avenues, and yet the federal government doesn’t recognize any of them.
In the short term, there may be a huge development as we watch the Supreme Court take on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA); but regardless of the outcome, same-sex couples still face unique and complex estate planning challenges.
Reference: Forbes (November 7, 2012) “Gay Marriage Scores Victories In All Four States That Considered It, But Tough Road Lies Ahead”