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How Obergefell v. Hodges Transforms Estate Planning for Same-Sex Couples

With the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, same-sex marriage has become legal in all 50 states. In addition to removing much of the ambiguity resulting from conflicts between federal and state laws, the decision also has a significant impact on the ability of couples to undertake the process of estate planning with greater ease.

To begin, married same-sex couples no longer face the prospect of paying estate taxes in the event that one spouse passes away. Prior to the Supreme Court’s 2013 ruling in U.S. v. Windsor, a married same-sex couple living in a state that did not recognize the marriage was subject to both federal and state estate taxes, whereas opposite-sex couples were exempted. The Windsor ruling changed the situation for couples living in states that recognized same-sex marriage, but the latest ruling eliminates the estate tax for same-sex spouses nationwide.

The new ruling also helps couples without any type of estate planning documentation on the books. Now, same-sex spouses are guaranteed the right of inheritance through state intestacy laws, which allow property to transfer automatically to a surviving spouse.

Engaging in proper estate planning

Although the Obergefell ruling essentially serves as the last word on same-sex marriage nationwide in that it affords same-sex spouses the full range of rights available to opposite-sex spouses, it is still important that couples make proper estate planning a priority. Meeting with an attorney to discuss and prepare documentation related to property distribution, incapacity, trust establishment and other aspects of estate planning can help clarify a couple’s intentions and protect their best interests.

For guidance and assistance with estate planning, seek the advice of the experienced and knowledgeable Florida attorneys at the Charles Law Offices.

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