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Changes For Same-Sex Couples Since Obergefell

Since the Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges in mid-2015, the legal landscape has undergone seismic changes with regard to the rights and responsibilities of same-sex couples. From  tax laws to estate planning, same-sex couples must revise and conform their plans and thinking to the new reality, which sometimes  can be more difficult than one might think.

Tax Law Issues

One of the primary changes for same-sex couples in the wake of the Obergefell decision is how to deal with income tax filing. After the 2013 decision in U.S. v. Windsor, same-sex couples were permitted to file as married (whether jointly or separately), but after Obergefell, they are now entitled to the same tax breaks and exemptions as heterosexual couples. This can even add up to a net gain. For example, a Florida same-sex couple could possibly file amended returns for at least some of the previous years when their marriage was not legally recognized by the state. This might lead to a lower tax liability. Interestingly, it is possible that the couple could incur the “marriage penalty,” where marrying someone with comparable income bumps the couple into a higher tax bracket overall.

Another place that same-sex couples might see a change in their tax liability is with health care and premiums. Domestic partner benefits are on their way out in many states, Florida included. Even though many couples have no interest in being married, or may face consequences in other ways if they are ‘outed’ in areas with no nondiscrimination protections, they are being forced by circumstance to either marry and obtain spousal coverage (which can cost much more or less than domestic partner coverage), or forego healthcare coverage for one partner, which can alter the deduction available for healthcare costs.

Estate Planning Issues

The other big legal area where same-sex marriage has caused significant adjustment is in the realm of estate planning. Divorce and estate planning both often involve significant asset distribution, and previously, there were limits on the amount of assets that could be exchanged between partners who were not legally married. The most common instance where this caused problems previously was in dealing with Social Security benefits. Same-sex couples may now, if they fulfill the other requirements, collect on their spouse’s or ex-spouse’s Social Security, which was not possible for domestic partners or those who cohabitated.

Another big change deals with estate tax and its various exemptions. Married couples could exchange assets between themselves with no estate or gift tax payable, while same-sex partners could not. Florida formerly had what is referred to as a ‘pick-up’ estate tax (that is, the state ‘picked up’ the remainder of the federal allowance), but has since removed it, but the question of estate tax exemptions can still matter, especially if you have property or other assets in other states that do still have the state tax.

Ask For Experienced Assistance

While some time has elapsed since the Obergefell decision, it will take a long time for same-sex couples to adjust to the new reality, and questions are common. If you need assistance navigating a new area of the law, it can help to contact a qualified legal professional. The Orlando family law firm of Goodblatt · Leo is knowledgeable and happy to help. Call us today to schedule an appointment.

GOODBLATT · LEO is located and serves clients in and around Orlando, FL.

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