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5 Benefits for Married Same-Sex Couples

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Just over 1 year ago, on June 26, 2015, history was made in the United States. The Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges, that recognition of same-sex marriages will be allowed in every state. This landmark ruling now acknowledges same-sex couples as “spouses” in the eyes of the law. With this ruling, there are now securities for same-sex couples that were previously unavailable in the past. Listed below are 5 areas that married same-sex couples may benefit from.

1. Gender-Blind

Legally, there is no difference in a same-sex couple’s estate plan than in opposite-sex couple’s estate plan. It makes no difference whether a will was executed before the date of the Obergefell ruling. The law in place at the time of the testator’s death is the law that must be abided by.

2. Unlimited Marital Deduction

Married same-sex couples are now allowed to take advantage of the unlimited marital deductions for federal estate and gift tax. It would be wise to meet with a financial planner to make sure you are taking advantage of all tax-savings available.

3. Beneficiary Designation of Retirement Benefits

Married same-sex couples are now able to rollover assets in a retirement account without the mandatory minimum distribution or lump-sum distribution required after one spouse’s death. Also, if a spouse has an Employee Retirement Income Security Act covered plan, the spouse may make the other spouse the automatic beneficiary.

4. Natural Born and Adopted Children

A child, whether born or adopted into a same-sex couples’ family, needs to be specifically identified throughout the estate planning documents. In such a union, the child’s relationship to their adoptive or birth parent can be contested at the death of the legal parent if not planned for ahead of time.

If a child is born to one spouse, the other spouse should strongly consider adopting the child in order to legalize the relationship and eliminate the potential fight for custody, should the other spouse die. In this case, if there’s no legal relationship between the child and the spouse of the natural parent, a relative of the natural parent could fight for custody.

The same issue applies to a child who’s only adopted by one spouse. Same-sex couples may choose a co-parent adoption to ensure they both have rights regarding child custody and guardianship.

If a partner has a child and the other partner plans to adopt that child, he or she is eligible to receive an adoption tax credit; however, this credit isn’t available for a spouse adopting his or her spouse’s child. If a couple is planning to marry and an adoption is in the cards, it may be helpful for the adoption to occur before they marry.

5. Non-Citizen Spouse May Consider Becoming a Citizen

Non-citizen, same-sex spouses are offered the chance to become U.S. citizens on the basis of their marriage to a spouse of the same-sex who’s a U.S. citizen. If this is something that you are considering, be aware that the spouse in question would be taxed by the United States on his or her worldwide income, should he or she become a U.S. citizen.

Conversely, it can be costly to expatriate from the United States, renounce your U.S. citizenship and return to your home country. In order to expatriate, you must prove five years of U.S. tax compliance. If you have a net worth greater than $2 million or an average annual net income tax for the five previous years of $160,000 or more, you must pay an exit tax. Furthermore, the U.S. State Department has raised the fee for renouncing U.S. citizenship from $450 to $2,350.


Feeling confused or scared about making your love official? No worries, Kira Doyle Law is here to help! Here are some things that you may want to think about before your first appointment:

  • Review beneficiary designations for insurance and any retirement benefits

  • Review property ownership and prepare to bring documents with you to your first Estate Planning meeting

  • Confirm that the definitions in your Estate Planning documents correctly reflect the current state of relationships (i.e. “spouse,” “husband,” “wife,” and/or “children)