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With DOMA over, same-sex partners enjoy estate planning benefits

For years same-sex couples have fought long and hard to win equal rights in America. While legalizing gay marriage will not solve all problems, it is a great start for many gay and lesbian couples. Under the former Defense of Marriage Act, partners who were legally married were excluded from some 1,000 federal laws and regulations, including those on estate planning benefits. In politically diverse Washington, many Kent residents may have been aware of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that ended DOMA, allowing same-sex partners to enjoy the same federal estate planning benefits as the rest of the nation.

Marital deduction is one of the benefits same-sex couples will now enjoy. With DOMA over, same-sex partners can transfer as much money as they want to each other, alive or dead, without paying federal estate tax on certain amounts. Prior to DOMA, same-sex partners were susceptible to paying massive taxes in order to receive an inheritance. Perhaps one of the most financially important benefits is control over company retirement plans. Same-sex couples can now be named as the sole primary beneficiary to their partner's retirement account. This gives them access to each other's accounts, such as 401K plans or Keogh plans.

Estate planning is one of the most important federal benefits for many American citizens. Without the most basic estate plan, many residents are missing out on important tax breaks and can leave their loved ones with future problems. When someone dies without a will, trust or living testament, it becomes the government's job to divide their assets and property through probate court. Often times this process does not go according to the end-of-life wishes of the deceased, and can be a cumbersome process for loved ones left behind.

Kent residents without a basic estate plan or will may not have their end-of-life wishes carried out. To insure this does not happen, and to make sure your requests are heard and met, an attorney may offer advice and guidance on a topic changing rapidly in response to new laws and social trends.

Source: Forbes, "How the Supreme Court decision will change estate planning for same-sex spouses," Deborah L. Jacobs, June 26, 2013

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