Last week marked one year since the Supreme Court blocked parts of the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA. Vermont is one of 19 states that now recognize same sex marriages. Needless to say, those states have worked to equalize marital rights of couples since then. In some states, such as Texas, Oregon and Pennsylvania, federal courts have stepped in to provide perspective on the laws in an effort to provide some degree of consistency.
A Work in Progress
While it’s not been a smooth transition, as it’s still an issue that tends to cause people to draw their proverbial lines in the sand, there are definitive goings-on that will provide more benefits and rights, including Social Security benefits and others. That transition has been fast, even if not smooth, as more lesbian, gay and bisexual couples are unsure of what benefits they qualify for, what kind of changes it means for their taxes, healthcare and much more.
Many are turning to estate planning lawyers, something that might not have yet been on their radar until recently. With so many legal and financial considerations, making sure it’s done right can mean the difference between retiring with few worries or facing complications later. Katherine Dean, who is the managing director of wealth planning for Wells Fargo Private Bank explains, “Every legislative action that affects domestic partnerships has the potential to impact the financial situations and investment goals of LGBT investors.”
Taking it a step further, with changes in privacy laws, many same sex couples learned that revised HIPAA laws meant they were often left out of the loop if a partner was injured or became ill. Of course, medical healthcare directives and/or medical powers of attorney helped, but many learned too late that it was an option.
Understanding Same Sex Marriages & Legal Changes
Dean shared a new Wells Fargo survey that reveals the vast majority – 83 percent – of LGBT couples don’t understand fully the various state and federal laws that affect not only their financial interests, but their legal interests as well. Nearly 75 percent of those couples are already married; yet, only 45 percent have reached out to an estate planning lawyer or financial adviser for any kind of guidance on how these dynamics work together and what it means for their future.
Another survey shows more than half of same sex couples would “value professional help with their wills and estate planning”. Specifically, they seek legal guidance on powers of attorney, tax issues and retirement planning.
The statistics weren’t necessarily a surprise to us, as we understand the logistics anytime changes in the law go into effect and that have the potential to change so many lives. We’re committed to remaining current on these changes and welcome the opportunity to speak with our clients on what it might mean for them personally. If you’d like to learn more about how DOMA affects those in Vermont, we invite you to contact us today. We’ll schedule a complimentary consultation to answer questions and discuss steps you can to protect you and your loved ones.