Estate PlanninG

Estate Planning for Same Sex Couples

In 2015 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that same sex marriages be recognized throughout the country and receive the same legal protections as heterosexual marriages. The ruling followed the death of Ohio resident John Arthur, the partner of Jim Obergefell. The couple had gotten legally married in Maryland before Arthur’s death, but the death certificate issued by the State of Ohio did not identify Arthur and Obergefell as spouses. Obergefell sued the State of Ohio, citing the 14th amendment’s equal protection clause, and his case was consolidated with other relevant same-sex marriage cases. On June 26th, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in favor of Obergefell in Obergefell v. Hodges.

Since the ruling, same-sex spouses are entitled to any and all spousal benefits. These benefits include adoption and custody proceedings, divorce proceedings, spousal inheritance, and joint tax filing. Furthermore, any state laws that banned or restricted same-sex marriage have become invalid. Same-sex couples now have access to the same legal rights and privileges that heterosexual couples have been afforded. While this development greatly reduces the amount of stress and effort that same-sex couples have been forced to endure, that doesn’t mean those couples no longer need to be proactive about their legal planning.

The fact of the matter is that estate planning is as necessary for same-sex couples as it is for heterosexual couples. Just because your marriage is legally recognized and allows for intestate succession in the event of your spouse’s death doesn’t mean estate planning is unnecessary. It is important that couples discuss their wishes for medical care, distribution of property, and any other concerns about their estate plan. It is even more important that those plans be articulated in enforceable legal documents to ensure that you and your spouse’s wishes are respected.

As LGBT+ Americans adjust to this recent achievement for marriage equality, they must also adjust to the legal implications and responsibilities of being legally married. It is crucial that same-sex couples prepare the necessary documents to ensure their surviving family and assets are taken care of according to their desires. Same-sex couples have been legally exploited for too long, but now that those laws are finally changing it’s time for those couples to take a proactive approach to their legal protection.

Santaella Legal Group, APC, serving San Ramon, Danville, Dublin, Tri-valley and the San Francisco Bay area can assist in the estate planning for LBGT+ Americans. Please contact us at 925-831-4840 if you have any questions.