Same-sex marriages are now recognized in Pennsylvania. As a result of this recent development, same-sex couples now have more opportunity within the area of estate planning.  Any individual that signed documents with an estate planning attorney in Philadelphia prior to the change in legislation should revisit their wills and other estate documents in order to make sure that their documents are still effective and produce the required results.

How the Legal Recognition of Same-Sex Marriages Came to Be

The “United States v. Windsor” case was a landmark case that fought the differential treatment of same-sex married couples at the time. Edith Windsor was a part of a same-sex couple with Thea Spyer, who died and left her entire estate to Windsor. Although she was initially barred from claiming certain tax benefits, she eventually won the case and stimulated the United States Supreme Court to deem that the United States federal interpretation of “marriage” and “spouse” as strictly heterosexual was unconstitutional.

Same-sex marriage became legal in Pennsylvania on May 20, 2014 when a United States Federal District Court found that a Pennsylvania statutory ban on recognizing same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. 

Opportunities for Estate Planning of Same-Sex Couples

Given the progressions in the United States and Pennsylvania legal systems, individuals in same-sex marriages can now take advantage of the benefits that were only available to heterosexual couples.

For example, prior to the change in law, if a same-sex couple was married in another state, the assets would be taxed at a 15% rate. This was because Pennsylvania didn’t recognize the receiving partner as a “spouse” and thus they were not able to benefit from the 0% tax rate made available to heterosexual couples. Now, same-sex couples can benefit from the 0% tax rate.

In addition to the Pennsylvania inheritance tax savings, same-sex couples should revisit other estate planning documents and beneficiary designations. At Astor, Weiss, Kaplan & Mandel, our estate planning attorneys in Philadelphia can help you ensure that you are taking advantage of all of the State and Federal tax benefits that are available to you.

Same-sex couples that have any questions or concerns regarding their estate planning documentation should schedule a consultation with Astor, Weiss, Kaplan & Mandel to revisit their plan and ensure that all legal documentation honors your  wishes. Our estate planning attorneys in Philadelphia are more than happy to answer your questions and help you take advantage of your constitutional rights if you give them a call at 215-790-0100.