Same-Sex Couples Have Unique Estate Planning Needs

Massachusetts is one of a few states to recognize same-sex marriage. The federal government and a majority of the states do not recognize unions of same-sex couples in any form. This differential treatment creates unique estate-planning needs for same-sex couples, and the taxation, probate and transfer of the assets of an individual in a same-sex relationship can be complicated.

For example, Social Security benefits, spousal tax benefits and some estate-tax benefits are not available to same-sex spouses. Consequently, people in same-sex marriages can greatly benefit from estate planning to ensure their wishes are fulfilled, to provide for their partners, and to minimize the tax impact when they become incapacitated or pass away.

Asset Transfers

One key advantage of estate planning for same-sex couples is the creation of a will and strategic asset transfers. A will can direct assets to one's partner and any other desired recipients, which is important when state law controlling asset transfers in the absence of a will does not match the person's wishes.

Additionally, an estate planning attorney can help same-sex couples transfer assets smoothly and with minimal taxation by restructuring ownership of their assets and ensuring that beneficiary designations on retirement and life-insurance accounts are correct. Arranging a will and asset transfers to minimize taxes is especially important for same-sex couples who cannot take advantage of federal tax breaks allowing spouses to make transfers to each other tax-free.

Health Care Planning

Another way same-sex couples benefit from estate planning is by creating health care plans that recognize their partners' special statuses. A durable power of attorney created by an estate planning lawyer can authorize a partner to make financial decisions and access financial accounts if the other partner becomes incapacitated.

In addition, a health-care proxy can give a partner the power to make health-care decisions when the other partner is unable to make or communicate decisions about his or her health care and end-of-life wishes. This is particularly important if a partner needs medical treatment in a state that does not recognize same-sex marriages.

These are just a few of the many benefits of estate planning for same-sex couples. If you are in a same-sex relationship and would like to know more about how estate planning can help you, contact a knowledgeable Massachusetts estate planning lawyer at our firm.