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.
(November 7, 2012) “Gay Marriage Scores Victories In All Four
States That Considered It, But Tough Road Lies Ahead”