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For Better or Worse: Estate Planning for Same-Sex Spouses

August 1, 2013

Filed under: Estate Planning,Estate Taxes,Gifting — Neel Shah @ 1:11 pm

As a recent article explains, the United States Supreme Court’s recent ruling on same-sex marriage will radically alter estate planning for same-sex married couples.

taking their first steps as a legally married ...

(Photo credit: ehoyer)

Prior to the decision, thousands of federal laws available to married couples were not available to same-sex married couples due to the Federal Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”), which defined marriage as between a man and a woman. By striking down DOMA, the United States Supreme Court suddenly made thousands of federal estate planning tools available to same-sex married couples.

One of these tools is portability. Portability allows a surviving spouse to utilize the unused portion of his or her deceased spouse’s estate tax exclusion. Portability was made permanent in the new 2012 tax law. In order to use the unused portion of your spouse’s estate tax exemption, the surviving spouse needs to have the executor of the deceased spouse’s estate transfer the unused exclusion, as this is not automatic.

Another estate planning maneuver that will now be available to same-sex married couples is gift-splitting. Every year, federal law allows each individual to gift $14,000 per year, per recipient, to as many recipients as they wish. Any amount gifted over the yearly gift-tax exclusion counts against a person’s lifetime gift tax exclusion. Married spouses, however, can combine their gift amount in order to jointly gift $28,000 to a single recipient.

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