Supreme Court decision potentially changes estate planning field

Following Wednesday’s announcement by the Supreme Court of the United States that the federal Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional, there was considerable talk about what this opinion would change. Since Texas does not perform same-sex marriage or recognize couples who have been legally married outside of Texas, there has been some questions about whether the end of the Defense of Marriage Act will bring federal benefits to couples living in Texas that were married in a state that has legal same-sex marriage. As the federal government works through these questions, it is important to work with an estate planning attorney who can help explain the legal changes.

The case that actually brought down the Defense of Marriage Act was about estate taxes. The plaintiff had been legally married to her wife and lived in a state that recognized same-sex marriage. Yet when her wife died, the plaintiff was forced to pay $363,000 in estate taxes because the federal government did not see the women as famliy members.

If federal benefits are extended to married same-sex couples in Texas, this would mean that future inheritances to spouses will not be taxed under the federal estate tax. Same-sex couples will no longer have to pay the government for an inheritance that opposite-sex couples never had to. There are, of course, other federal marriage benefits that same-sex couples will be able to access, as well.

Estate planning is a complex and difficult thing to do, but it is vitally important. Planning for the future ensures that your money, property and possessions go to the individuals you want them to go to, which is also why it is so important for estate planning to be done correctly. If a will is not made properly, all of that hard work could be disregarded completely.

Source:ABC News, “4 Ways Life Will Be Different Without DOMA,” Emily Deruy, June 26, 2013