The recent Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges has significant implications for same-sex married couples in New York and around the country. Now that same-sex marriages are legally recognized in every state, estate planning will be much simpler for millions of Americans. Gay and lesbian spouses will now be recognized as surviving spouses on death certificates, and many adopted children will now have two legal parents.
The lead plaintiff in the Supreme Court case was reportedly motivated by his desire to be listed as the spouse on his deceased husband’s state of Ohio death certificate. Being recognized as the surviving spouse can mean that a person is eligible to receive their deceased spouse’s assets upon their death or death benefits that might be awarded after an accident. Until now, same-sex spouses in many states could not plan their deceased spouse’s funeral because they were not legally considered to be the next-of-kin.
One of the most important estate planning issues that the historic ruling may have an impact on for same-sex couples is planning for the care of children. In many states, children who have been adopted by same-sex couples only have one legal parent. This means that if the legal parent dies, the child does not have another legal parent with the right to make decisions about their medical care and other matters.
Same-sex married couples may now want to create all of the legal estate planning documents that they could not create before the Supreme Court ruling. An estate planning attorney may be able to help a same-sex couple to draw up wills, create trusts and set up powers of attorney.