Same-Sex Couples Should Seek Legal Counsel in Wake of DOMA Ruling

The Supreme Court just ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”) is unconstitutional. That means that the federal government will acknowledge same sex marriages in the same manner in which the states do.  In other words, because California is a state that now does acknowledge marriage between same sex partners, the federal government will acknowledge those marriages.

This acknowledgement will have a particularly big impact on estate planning and tax law.  Married couples (regardless of gender) will be able to file joint federal tax returns, may avoid estate taxes through the marital exclusion, and will qualify for spousal benefits with Social Security and other federal programs.

It is essential for same sex couples to revisit their tax positions and their estate planning documents to determine if they are taking advantage of the laws that now apply to them.  Because there are over 1,000 federal statutes in which marital status is an issue, estate planning and tax professionals are currently gathering additional information on how all couples can make sure they receive all the benefits to which they are entitled.  For example, some tax professionals are now suggesting that same sex couples who were married under state law before 2013 may benefit from amending their federal income tax returns.