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Do Same-Sex Couples Need to Rethink Their Estate Plans?

June 6, 2016

In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark ruling on marriage rights for same-sex couples, it may be tempting to assume that estate planning rights will naturally fall into place. True, marriage provides a right of inheritance to a surviving spouse. Yet that right shouldn’t be viewed as an excuse for putting off estate planning.

For example, a surviving spouse does not necessarily inherit everything. Depending on the jurisdiction and the applicable rules of intestacy, some of the deceased’s assets may go to other heirs, such as parents or children from a prior relationship.

Good estate planning also includes powers of attorney, both medical and financial. In the event of incapacity, the other spouse may be able to make these decisions. However, if one spouse handled more of the financial matters, it may be of benefit to designate a third party with decision-making authority. Similarly, a spouse may not be aware of the full extent of the other spouse’s medical wishes. A consultation with an attorney can help to clarify these preferences.

Finally, estate planning may also help an individual’s financial planning, especially regarding his or her retirement plans. Putting some assets into an irrevocable trust may offer immediate tax benefits, while still providing some income to the named beneficiaries. Examining retirement accounts and updating named beneficiaries will also provide peace of mind. Our law firm is experienced in these and various other GLBT estate planning topics.

Source: Washington Blade, “Myths of Estate Planning,” Lawrence S. Jacobs, May 28, 2016