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Estate planning win for same-sex couples

Many Philadelphia residents are aware of the recent Supreme Court ruling that serves to legitimize same-sex marriage. The change has led to a number of positive outcomes for gay families, including significant benefits in the estate planning arena. For those who have already taken steps to ensure that their partner is able to inherit assets upon one's death and make decisions in the event of incapacitation, the ruling may prompt a review of the existing documents.

Now that same-sex couples can legally wed, those couples will be able to enjoy the same benefits as married couples. Chief among these is the right to portability. Each individual is allowed to pass on $5.43 million in assets at the time of his or her death. Married couples are allowed to combine that amount. If a spouse dies and does not use the entirety of that exclusion amount, the surviving spouse is able to keep the remainder and add it to his or her own exclusion, which is known as portability.

Another benefit that same-sex couples will receive after marriage is a more secure ability to handle the affairs of a partner in the event of incapacitation. Previously, same-sex partners often faced serious obstacles in directing the health care or financial matters for an incapacitated partner if a family member challenged that role. Now, spouses will be recognized as such, which can make it easier to handle such matters in the event of a serious illness or injury. That said, the best way to ensure that one's chosen proxy is able to act in one's stead is to document that intention in power of attorney designations.

With the Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage, couples in Philadelphia and across the nation are celebrating. This historic ruling legitimize the unions formed by same-sex partners. It also brings a wealth of practical benefits. Estate planning for these couples has been largely simplified, which is a relief for families who want to provide for their loved ones.

Source: The National Law Review, "Estate Planning for Same-Sex Couples After Obergefell", Terri R. Stallard, Aug. 7, 2015

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