In the landmark decision of Obergfell v. Hodges, the Supreme Court of the United States made same-sex marriage legal throughout the country. In Florida, same-sex couples now have the same ability to get married as their heterosexual counterparts. Though still being fought in many states, same-sex marriage is an issue that has significant repercussions in estate planning. Understanding how same-sex marriage can affect your estate planning concerns is essential if you are an LGBT individual or couple in Florida, and are considering marriage.
Same Sex Marriage
LGBT couples who get married will no longer be unsure about the legal status of their marriage. Prior to the court’s decision, a patchwork of laws around the country determined the legal status of a same-sex couple’s marriage depending on where they lived. Put simply, some states recognized the validity of same-sex marriages, while others did not. This meant that a couple moving to or from a state that allowed for same-sex marriages could face a change in the legal status of their marriage simply because they live in a new place. This is no longer the case.
Same-Sex Marriage and Inheritances
The right of a spouse to inherit from a deceased spouse is one that all states recognize. However, couples living together outside of marriage do not share this automatic right. Now, with the legalization of same-sex marriage, LGBT couples can enter into a legally-recognized marriage and receive the right to inherit from their spouse.
Same-Sex Marriage and Taxes
Getting married also brings some significant tax benefits. In addition to the often significant benefit of being able to file a joint tax return, married couples gain specific estate and gift tax benefits.
For example, married couples can give each other unlimited gifts and not risk having to pay any gift taxes on them. Should the couple not be married, they are limited to giving one another $14,000 in tax-free gifts per year. Anything over that amount is subject to gift taxation.
Same-Sex Marriage and Health
A married person has the right to visit an ill or incapacitated spouse while that person is in the hospital, but the same is not always true of non-married couples, regardless of how long they have been together. Similarly, married couples can make decisions for the other if the other becomes incapacitated. Non-married couples do not automatically have this right.
Same-Sex Marriage and Divorce
Same-sex couples now also have the same right to get a divorce. An end to a marriage also brings an end to the benefits marriage affords, and any person who gets a divorce needs to understand the implications it has on his or her estate plan.