On December 14, 2022, President Biden signed the Respect for Marriage Act. This act mandates that all states recognize marriage between two individuals, regardless of their sex, race or ethnicity. The Respect for Marriage Act repeals the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defined marriage as between a male and a female. Many people ask how this new Act impacts estate planning for same-sex couples.
In the past, when a same-sex married couple moved out of their state and to a state that did not recognize their marriage, they often had to reorganize their estate plan. In this case, one spouse could not automatically leave all assets to the other person since they were no longer legally married. DOMA also limited benefits such as Social Security survivorship benefits, filing joint tax returns and preventing gift and estate tax-free transfers between spouses.
Now, under state and federal laws, estate planning rules and regulations will all follow the idea that marriage is marriage.
If a person dies without a will, it is called intestate. When this happens, all property and assets follow the state laws for disbursement. In Illinois, the assets will go to the closest relative. If you are married, it will now go to your spouse, regardless of the sex of each person.
But we still recommend you have a will or trust to avoid the emotional and financial stress dying intestate can cause on your loved ones.
As noted above, more is involved than simply a will or trust. You need an estate plan that includes all aspects of your financial life and make sure it all works together. You cannot name a life insurance beneficiary in your will; you name beneficiaries on the plan itself. This is also true if you name a beneficiary of your bank accounts and investments. An estate plan will review all aspects and make updates after a life-changing event – such as a marriage. You’ll also want to review who you have named in your Power of Attorney and Health Care Directive.
Now that your spouse is state and federally recognized, you should work with an estate planning attorney to update your entire estate plan.
Talk to an attorney in the Chicago area. We can help you update your estate plan to protect your loved ones. Contact the Estate & Probate Legal Group at 630-864-5835.
AREAS WE SERVE: Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake and Will counties