When a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2015 legalized same-sex marriage, it brought many changes to same-sex couples and their families. Among other things, it made a momentous alteration to their financial planning outlook. One significant change was that same-sex couples no longer have to navigate a hodgepodge of state and federal laws to map their financial plans and address many other important legal concerns. The Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants examines the current financial landscape for these couples and offers some advice to address their unique concerns.
Make the most of the benefits
The 2015 Supreme Court decision—and another important ruling in 2013—simplified many financial planning considerations for same-sex couples. Estate planning has become easier in many ways because, among other things, a surviving spouse in a same-sex marriage can now inherit the couple’s assets without paying estate tax. As a result, couples may want to reconsider previous plans they had in place and revise them as necessary. Tax time should be easier, too, because couples filing jointly can file one federal tax return and one state return in any state. It’s still a good idea, however, to review how a change in marital status could have an impact on your tax situation and to consider new tax planning approaches. Members of same-sex couples are also eligible for spousal benefits, such as health insurance coverage and life insurance, without being taxed for them, so be sure that your beneficiary designations on these policies are up to date. Workers in same-sex marriages must be given leave to care for a spouse under the Family Medical Leave Act, and they have full access to Social Security spousal retirement and survivor benefits, as well as veteran and military benefits. These are among the factors you should take into account as you chart your financial plan.