On June 26, 2015, in a landmark decision, the United States Supreme Court ruled (5-4) that the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution requires a State to license a marriage between two people of the same sex and to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-State. Thus, the term “spouse,” that is often used in estate planning documents, will now embrace a class of individuals no longer limited by gender. Same sex married couples will now be entitled to the protections and benefits, as well as the obligations, arising from a legal marriage. Among other things, this means that same sex married couples will be able to claim the estate and gift tax marital deductions for property they transfer to their spouse.
If you are a same sex couple planning to formalize your union by marriage, or if a beneficiary in any of your current estate planning documents may get married in the wake of this ruling, you may want to review your estate plans to make sure they will accomplish what you want.