California Estate Planning for Same Sex Couples in a “Post DOMA World”

On June 26, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act, which denied federal recognition of same-sex marriages.This decision has significant impacts for married same-sex couples with regard to estate planning.

Although the new ruling on DOMA provides equal treatment of same sex couples with regard to estate planning, each situation will need a tailored plan of action. At Lifetime Legal , we can provide you and your partner with estate planning advice that is unique to your particular situation.

Spousal Rights and Responsibilities in a New Era

Prior to the June ruling, estate planning for gay and lesbian couples was very complex. However, with the dawn of this ruling, the rights and responsibilities previously only available to opposite sex married couples will be extended to married same-sex couples. Some of these include:

  • The ability to transfer unlimited assets to a spouse during life and at death, allowing the payment of estate taxation to be deferred until the second spouse’s death
  • The option to file joint federal tax returns, allowing same sex couples with significantly disparate incomes the ability to lower their overall effective tax rate
  • The right to apply for and receive Social Security benefits for the surviving spouse
  • The opportunity to sponsor a foreign-born spouse for citizenship
  • Access to veteran’s spousal benefits

Tax Benefits Afforded To Same Sex Couples Under the New Ruling

Same sex married couples can also take advantage of federal tax benefits when devising their estate plans. Below are some of the benefits they are entitled to:

  • The ability to file a joint income tax return with the IRS, which may offer them more advantages
  • Create a family partnership, allowing them to divide business income among family members resulting in big tax savings
  • Estate and gift tax exemption for surviving spouses
  • The ability for same sex married gay and lesbian couples to combine their personal tax exemptions
  • The ability to create life estate trusts, including QTIP trusts and QDOT trusts, providing distinct tax advantages upon the death of one spouse

Let Us Provide You With a Tailored Estate Plan

For more information or to schedule a complimentary consultation with an  estate planning attorney, please call Lifetime Legal  at (805) 419-5290.