Same Sex Married Couples Now Enjoy Same Rights Under Federal Law
August 1, 2013
Gina M. Barry, Esq.
Until recently, and even if they were married in a state that recognizes same sex marriage, married same sex couples were treated differently under federal law than heterosexual married couples. On June 26, 2013, the Supreme Court changed that by striking down the Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”) as unconstitutional. The decision in
U.S. v. Windsor split the Court 5-4 and will surely be hailed as one of the most significant civil liberties victories in the history of the United States.
The estate planning implications of this decision are immense as married same sex couples can now take advantage of a federal estate tax provision that previously was only available to married heterosexual couples. In fact, the ruling in
U.S. v. Windsor specifically addressed the estate tax calculation for a married same sex couple. These couples can now benefit from the application of the federal marital deduction, which is a deduction that allows assets to pass to a surviving spouse free of estate tax regardless of the amount. It may also be possible to amend a recently filed federal estate tax return to take advantage of this change. Similarly, married same sex couples can also now pass assets to each other with no federal gift tax consequences.
With the striking down of DOMA, same sex married couples will now enjoy various federal income tax provisions that their heterosexual counterparts have enjoyed all along. It will increase their ability to contribute to an IRA for a non-working spouse, and it will allow them to make larger donations to charity due as their combined higher income providing an increased charitable giving deduction. Married same sex couples will also be allowed…
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by: Gina M. Barry