Marriage Equality

With Marriage, What Changes?

On June 26, 2015, the United States Supreme Court decided the case of Obergefell v. Hodges and made same-sex marriage legal across all of the United States.  Five Justices (Kennedy, Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan) ruled that laws refusing to recognize same-sex marriage violate the constitution of the United States.  With this decision, marriages performed before June 26, 2015, were rendered legal as of the date of marriage (not the date of the decision), and all states were required to allow same-sex marriages from that date forward.

In Florida, automatic rights apply to spouses in the areas of healthcare, taxes, child custody, adoption, homestead, probate, guardianship, asset protection, Medicaid for nursing home care, benefits, lawsuit damages, social security, and more. Upon death, a surviving spouse can take 30% of the deceased spouse’s assets – no matter what the beneficiary forms, will, or trust say. A surviving spouse receives a life estate or one-half interest in the deceased spouse’s homestead – no matter whose name is on the deed.

If you do not want to leave at least 30% of your assets, and your home, to your spouse, a pre-marital agreement may be the best method of passing assets according to your wishes.  A pre-marital agreement allows both spouses to deviate from the automatic rules and has fewer technical requirements than a post-marital agreement.

Even if you like the automatic rules that apply upon marriage, consider what happens when the second spouse dies.  If you do not have a will, all of your assets will pass to your spouse (or 50% to your spouse and 50% to your children).  When your spouse dies without a will, everything will pass to his or her blood relatives cutting out your children, relatives, friends, or favorite charities. This is probably not what you prefer.

Marriage brings new possibilities and a bright future, but it does not replace life planning.  To find out how marriage affects your personal circumstances and how life planning can help you and your spouse achieve your goals, schedule a complimentary consultation with Cathy today.