Thanks to the Supreme Court decision on June 26, same-sex couples can now enjoy the same rights and privileges of marriage as heterosexual couples, and this includes the same rights in estate planning. While marriage was already legal for gay couples in New Jersey, a gay couple’s marriage might not be recognized if they moved to a state that prohibited it, and there was also always a possibility that the right could be removed.
One of the couples in the Supreme Court case was concerned about this as they were required due to military service commitments to move to Tennessee where their marriage was not considered valid. Another had adopted four special needs children, but because gay marriage was not legal in their state, they could not both be considered parents of each child. Instead, each had to adopt two of the children, and the other had no legal parental rights to those two. Another man, the lead plaintiff in the case, had lost his partner and simply wanted to be named as the surviving spouse on his death certificate.
With national legalized marriage, gay couples can now take advantage of perks such as the estate tax exemption for married spouses. They can also give their spouse a power of attorney for making medical decisions, and there is less possibility that these types of arrangements will be successfully challenged in court by other family members.
Both married and unmarried gay couples may wish to discuss their estate planning options with an attorney. Even though marriage is legal in New Jersey, a married couple may have made provisions that are no longer necessary such as steps to ensure the care of their children. They may want to look into benefits like joint marital trusts. Unmarried gay couples may also wish to consult an attorney to find out what benefits would accompany marriage.