Same Sex Marriage: Legal Issues in Florida
On December 2, 2013, Hawaii became the fifteenth state to make same-sex marriage legal. On October 21, 2013, New Jersey became the fourteenth state (plus the District of Columbia) to make same-sex marriage legal. Florida is not one of those states.
On June 26, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that same-sex spouses legally married in a state may receive benefits. On August 29, 2013, the U.S. Treasury Department ruled that legally married same-sex couples will be treated as married for tax purposes, even if they live in a state that doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage. Although same-sex marriages are not legal in Florida, many local governments and businesses are offering benefits, such as health insurance, to the employee’s same-sex spouse, if the couple has been legally married in another state. Some local governments and businesses are also offering benefits to domestic partners who are not legally married in another state.
For same-sex couples in Florida, there are more incentives to getting legally married in another state. As with traditional marriages, a decision to marry should be based on love, compatibility and many other variables besides the legal and financial issues.
However, whether Florida same-sex couples are legally married in another state or not, there are certain Florida legal documents that every couple should have. These include the Durable Power of Attorney, Designation of Health Care Surrogate and Living Will. Each partner should also have at least a Florida Last Will and Testament. If the couple owns joint property in Florida, consideration should be given to creating a Revocable Living Trust Agreement. The couple will transfer the property to themselves as Co-Trustees of the Trust and provide for distribution without probate to each other when one dies and to other heirs when they both pass away. It is important that these documents be done whether or not the couple is legally married in another state. The legal rights of same-sex partners are undergoing rapid change; therefore, it is important for same-sex couples to consult with an Estate Planning attorney to review the best options.
Please feel free to call me for a free personal or phone consultation regarding any issues pertaining to Wills, Trusts, Estate Planning and Probate.
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