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Same-sex couples and estate planning

Same-sex married couples in Washington should know that estate planning applies to their relationships the same as it does to opposite sex marriages. Now that same-sex marriage is legal across the country, the same rules apply to all married couples.

Same-sex couples are now viewed the same as opposite-sex couples across the United States. This means that same-sex married couples will have spousal priority in instances of guardianship proceedings or matters regarding an incapacitated spouse's medical care. They also have survivorship rights to their spouse's pension plan and retirement accounts, regardless of what state these originated from and whether they recognized same-sex marriage before the 2015 Supreme Court decision. Upon a same-sex spouse's death, their property will automatically go to their spouse unless they have a will that provides otherwise. And the spouse will have priority in the trust proceedings after their spouse's death.

It is important for all couples, including same-sex married couples, to consider creating an estate plan. Although the law is there to protect married couples, estates can be complicated with many different factors, and estate protection is important for many families. An estate plan, including a will, trust and health directives may help preserve assets and the well-being of a family while reducing the exposure to probate and estate and gift taxes.

A legal professional skilled in estate planning can help a family determine what their needs are and how they can be addressed with a comprehensive estate plan. They have the skills necessary to make sure their clients gain the peace of mind knowing that their wishes will be followed after they pass away or become incapacitated.

Source:, "Estate planning for same-sex couples after Obergefell v. Hodges", Matthew T. McClintock, June 26, 2015

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