Same-sex marriages change estate planning needs for Ohio couples

Same-sex couples in Ohio can now legally marry after the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark decision in June. As numerous couples make wedding plans, estate planning attorneys in the Cleveland area - and elsewhere throughout the state - are gearing up to advise their clients regarding changes to their estate plans.

The Ohio lawsuit that propelled nationwide changes

Based on a lawsuit that originated in Ohio, the highest court in the country ruled that state bans on same-sex marriage are unconstitutional. In the Obergefell v. Hodges case, a gay couple flew to another state to be married, returning to live in Ohio where one later died. The survivor filed a lawsuit when state officials refused to list him on the death certificate as a surviving spouse, which would have entitled him to certain benefits.

The court decision now requires all states to recognize same-sex marriages no where they were legally performed and to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. These law changes have created many important opportunities for same-sex couples, especially regarding their estate plans.

Estate planning opportunities now available to same-sex couples

Married gay and lesbian couples living in Ohio can now enjoy many personal, legal, financial and estate planning benefits that were previously available only to married opposite-sex couples. Some of these conveniences include:

  • No longer needing to travel out of state to get married or worrying as much about how the state will treat them when they return
  • Taking advantage of the unlimited marital deduction for tax and estate planning purposes
  • Shifting higher amounts of assets to younger generations in order to reduce federal estate tax liability
  • Rolling over a deceased spouse's retirement account into the surviving spouse's account without having to take certain distributions
  • Using "second-to-die" survivor insurance policies rather than needing to use individual life insurance policies
  • Combining annual gift tax exclusions under the federal gift tax and generation-skipping tax laws to gift much more than previously allowed
  • Amending past federal and state income, estate and gift tax returns as appropriate to reap benefits from "married filing jointly" or "married filing separately" filing statuses
  • Increased access to medical benefits
  • Entitlement to state employment benefits and insurance policy and pension proceeds

Due to these new opportunities, many married same-sex couples may benefit from revising their estate plans in order to maximize what they leave behind. All couples - whether married or not - should visit with an experienced estate planning law firm to create or review their plans.