Married couples enjoy certain built-in protections when it comes to estate planning and elder law matters. If you were to pass away without an estate plan as a married person, your spouse would be in line for an inheritance. Your spouse would also be involved in the decision-making process if you were to become incapacitated due to medical problems.
Plus, there are estate tax benefits that go along with marriage. We have a federal estate tax that everyone in all 50 states must contend with, and in New York where we practice law, there is also a state-level estate tax. There is an unlimited marital estate tax deduction on both levels. You can leave unlimited assets to your spouse free of death taxes.
Here in New York, same-sex marriages are legal, but gay marriages were not recognized on the federal level until recently. A New York woman named Edith Windsor was forced to pay the estate tax after the death of her spouse, Thea Spyer. Windsor initiated a lawsuit, and the suit made it all the way to the Supreme Court.
Ultimately, the Supreme Court ruled that a section of the Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional, and as a result, gay marriages are now recognized on the federal level.
Even if you are legally married in the eyes of the law, an estate plan should be implemented, because there are many different things to take into consideration. Clearly, you are going to want to take care of your spouse, but you may have other people that you would like to pass property along to as well. There are various different ways to facilitate asset transfers, and the ideal course of action will depend upon the circumstances, so you should devise your plan in a fully informed manner.
While estate planning is important for everyone, even married people, it is absolutely essential for gay couples who are in committed relationships who are not legally married. People who are in this situation do not have the same protections that married people do, so you really have to state your wishes in writing to make sure that your partner is not disinherited.
You can also empower your partner to make medical decisions on your behalf in the event of your incapacitation, and you could name your partner as your financial representative as well.
Schedule a Consultation
If you would like to discuss your estate planning objectives with a licensed professional, our firm would be glad to help. We offer no obligation consultations, and we can sit down, get to know you, and answer all your questions.
To set up an appointment, send us a message through the following page: Smithtown Long Island Estate Planning Attorneys.