Impact of Obergefell v. Hodges on Estate Planning and Elder Law

The Supreme Court of the United States issued its landmark opinion in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges on Friday, June 26, 2015.  The opinion covered a series of consolidated cases in which the petitioners brought suit challenging state bans on same-sex marriage.  In an opinion written by Justice Kennedy, the Supreme Court ruled that 1) the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the 14th Amendment require states to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and 2) that the 14th Amendment requires states to recognize same-sex marriages that were valid in the state in which they were performed.  

 

This decision has broad implications for many aspects of the legal world, including Estate Planning and Elder Law.  Same-sex couples who choose to marry may now receive all legal benefits of marriage, including; priority in guardianship proceedings for their spouse, access to Spousal Refusal for Medicaid purposes, inheritance through intestacy, custody rights for children of the marriage, joint tax filings, spousal benefits of pension and other plans, etc.

This does not mean, however, that same-sex couples have no need for advanced planning.  On the contrary, the full array of planning options are now equally available to same-sex couples, including marital deduction planning for estate and gift taxes.  All couples should seriously consider their wishes and ensure those wishes are carried out by memorializing them in legally binding and enforceable Estate Planning documents. At a minimum, all couples should have properly structured advance directives including power of attorneys and health care proxies, wills, and disposition of remains appointments. Advanced Estate Planning tools such as trusts can be established to help ensure privacy, avoid probate and potential litigation, provide for other family members besides a spouse, and make charitable gifts.

At Pierro, Schaeffer & Connor we have worked with many gay, lesbian and transgender individuals, families and business owners to ensure their final wishes are carried out. Call us today to schedule an appointment with one of our knowledgeable and LGBT friendly attorneys.

 

By: David S. Staggs, Esq., LL.M.