HOW DOES OBERGEFELL VS. HODGES AFFECT ESTATE PLANNING FOR SAME SEX COUPLES?

The Supreme Court in Obergefell vs. Hodges made same-sex marriages legal across the nation holding same-sex married couples are now entitled to the equal protection of the laws of the United States. Prior to the Court’s ruling, same-sex couples were denied many rights and privileges afforded to other married couples, including no spousal rights of inheritance, no spousal support in cases of death or divorce, no intestate inheritance rights, no legal priority to act as a conservator or a guardian in case the other partner become incompetent, and no right of access to each other in the hospital.

The Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell, however, guarantees that same-sex couples are entitled to marry regardless of which state they reside in and they are guaranteed equal treatment under the law. 

Here are some important highlights of how the Court’s ruling will impact same-sex marriages: 

  • They can now file taxes jointly as a married couple.
  • They will receive spousal survivorship rights under retirement benefits.
  • In case a spouse dies without a valid will or a trust, the surviving spouse will be entitled to inherit under the state’s intestacy laws.
  • In case one spouse becomes incapacitated, the other spouse will receive priority to serve as conservator or guardian of the incapacitated spouse’s estate.
  • Adoption and child custody rights. 

Although the Court’s decision assures that same-sex married couples will now receive the same benefits afforded to other couples, the efficacy of those benefits depend on ensuring a proper estate plan is in place to prepare for disability, retirement and distribution of assets after death.