How the Defense of Marriage Act Will Affect Estate Planning


The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was signed into law back in 1996 to define marriage as the legal union between a man and a woman, in the eyes of the federal government. At the time, this meant that same-sex couples were unable to avail themselves of the benefits offered to other married couples, regardless of whether or not they legally entered into the bonds of marriage in their own home state. When the U.S. Supreme Court declared Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) to be unconstitutional, this opened the door to allow many individuals to receive federal protections and benefits to which they had previously been denied.

It also made it possible for married same-sex couples to be eligible to receive spousal social security death benefits, retirement benefits, as well as be exempt from having to pay federal estate taxes on property inherited after the death of a spouse. Same-sex couples who get married in a state that recognizes the legality of the same-sex marriage are eligible to receive a variety of other tax breaks as well. This means trusts can be created for the purpose of transferring property, income or other assets from one spouse to another without having to worry about paying a federal estate or gift tax.

As it stands now, the state of Louisiana does not recognize same-sex marriages, even those performed in another state. A federal lawsuit has been filed to challenge the state's Constitution and require the state to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. According to a memorandum issued by the office of U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, the U.S. Department of Justice will continue to recognize and offer benefits to same-sex married couples regardless of the state where they currently reside.

Estate planning can get very complex and be difficult to understand. If you are looking for someone to guide you through the estate planning process, look no further. I am an experienced lawyer who has helped countless individuals and families avail themselves of the benefits offered through estate planning. While there is no way to predict the future, estate planning can help give you a peace of mind in knowing your affairs are in order and your loved ones will be cared for according to your wishes. I believe in taking the time to educate my clients so they are well aware of the options available to them and can therefore effectively determine the estate planning tools which can be used to develop an all-encompassing estate plan.

Call the Law Office of Wendra J. Moran to find out what my firm and I can do for you.