Although same-sex marriage is legal, there are many legal technicalities still in place that make estate planning for same-sex couples especially important. Federal and state regulations may not have been updated to reflect new court decisions and, as a result, couples should discuss many important issues with an estate attorney.
In generations past, the legal status of same-sex couples was very different from married heterosexual couples. Recent court decisions have changed this, most notably with the 2013 ruling that made same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states. Though the Supreme Court ruling has come down and is enforced, it will take a while for the states to catch up and adjust their estate laws to accommodate same-sex marriage.
Speaking with an attorney can help you navigate the often murky waters of estate planning.
Transfer of Assets
Some states and the federal government impose an estate tax in 2018. To reduce the size of the estate tax, many couples choose to place some assets into a trust. It is also important that both spouses have a will that clearly lays out who gets the assets upon one spouse’s death.
Same-sex couples should also carefully review the terms of any joint accounts, joint assets, insurance policies, and employee benefit plans. Although a same-sex couple may be legally married, the specific terms of the policy may not yet be updated to recognize a spouse as the beneficiary of the plan, policy or account.
Long-Term Health Care
All couples should plan for a time when they may be mentally or physically incapacitated. In the absence of a legal marriage, hospitals or care homes may not recognize a same-sex partner as the legitimate decision maker. Couples should discuss making each other powers of attorney for health care and finances in the event of long-term illness.
Guardianship of Children
More and more same-sex couples have children, but in many cases, there are legal hurdles when it comes to the legal status of both partners as parents. Even when that matter is settled, it is vital to designate a preferred guardian for any minor children should one or both spouses pass away.
Federal and State Benefits
Although same-sex marriage is legal across the United States, individual states may have regulations that specifically prevent same-sex partners from receiving certain government benefits. Speaking with an attorney in Arkansas can help spouses to know who pays estate tax in this state, as well as how a spouse’s rights and responsibilities are impacted by state law.
Work Out the Details with a Lawyer
In order to ensure your spouse and children are protected, it is essential to discuss your estate planning issues with an attorney. Contact Estate Planners of Arkansas to make an appointment today at 501-414-8965.