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Federal Marriage Rights Now Available for Same-Sex Couples

Whether one is married or single is obviously a vital factor that impacts elder law and estate planning. Of course, that placed married New York same-sex couple in a strange position, as they were married under New York law, but single under federal law. As mentioned yesterday,with the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Windsor v. U.S., the federal law which deemed those couples unmarried is now gone. This will hopefully lead to a far more straightforward picture for those couples.

Marriage Rights & Obligations
Yesterday, The Globe published a story that delved a little more deeply into the specific rights which will now be afforded to married same-sex couples. The article is worth a look to get a better idea of some of the practical effects of yesterday’s ruling–beyond the obvious cultural and social effect of finally eliminating the stigma.

*Estate Taxes: The plaintiff in the original case, Edie Windsor was a New Yorker who began the battle because of the over $300,000 in estate taxes that she had to pay after inheriting her long-time partner’s estate. The couple’s marriage was recognized in New York, but not by the federal government. After this week’s decision, this same thing will never happen to other couples. Now, married same sex couples will be able to take advantage of the same spousal benefit for tax purposes–transferring unlimited assets to a spouse without a tax burden.

*Social Security Survivor Benefits: A partner will now be able to collect Social Security benefits of a partner, if the spouse dies while receiving a higher benefit amount.

*Retirement Accounts: Now, a partner in same-sex relationship will be able to roll over benefits in tax-preferred Individual Retirement Accounts without first being taxed on those funds.

*Citizenship: Citizen partners in a same-sex marriages will now be able to sponsor their spouse for a visa. If the partner chooses, they will also receive “spousal preference” on their path to citizenship. This will likely settle the debate that was raging in the U.S. Congress regarding whether or not gay couples should be treated equally in the new immigration bill that is being negotiated by Congress.

Of course, this minimal list is just a small snippet of the over 1,100 specific ways in which marriage applies in federal rules and statutes.

The elder law estate planning attorneys at our firm look forward to helping all New York couples take the necessary steps to protect their families and their future.

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