June 26, 2015


On June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court issued its groundbreaking opinion in the case Obergefell v. Hodges regarding the constitutionality of same-sex marriages in the United States. Today, in a 5-4 decision written by Justice Kennedy, the Supreme Court has legalized marriage equality for all. This revolutionary decision comes exactly two years to the day after another landmark Supreme Court decision regarding the rights of same-sex couples in Windsor v. United States,where the Supreme Court decided that the federal interpretation of “marriage” and “spouse,” as exclusive to only heterosexual unions, was unconstitutional.

The Obergefell decision takes marriage equality to the next level as it declares that state marriage bans are unconstitutional. Therefore, the 13 states that still prohibited same-sex marriages prior to this decision will no longer be able to legally do so. Not only will those states be required under this decision to allow same-sex marriages, but they must also marry same-sex couples. This decision means that all U.S. jurisdictions must perform and recognize same-sex marriages.

To read the full opinion, visit: http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/14pdf/14-556_3204.pdf


If you are recently married, you are now legally married in all 50 states for all purposes under federal and state law and you are afforded all of the rights and obligations of a legally married couple. If you travel across state lines, your marriage will be recognized in all jurisdictions. However, there are important considerations that all married couples, especially recently married couples, should be concerned about. Now that there is marriage equality for all couples in the United States, married couples must consider how marriage affects filing taxes, employee benefits, retirement and Social Security, estate planning, healthcare, alimony, insurance, etc.

Because same-sex couples’ marriages are now valid in all states, couples must file federal income taxes indicating that they are “married filing jointly” or “married filing separately.” It may be beneficial to retroactively claim marital status on previous tax returns; however, there are some things to take into consideration. For example, combining your income with your spouse’s income may bump you into a higher tax bracket or it could affect financial aid for you or your children. Contact our office to determine what the best choice is for your family.

Married same-sex couples will gain employee benefits that may not have been available before. If your same-sex spouse falls ill, under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), employees who are eligible will have the ability to take a leave of absence from work to care for the spouse. Additionally, you may be able to secure a cheaper healthcare program by moving onto your spouse’s workplace healthcare plan or vice versa. A same-sex spouse may now also have funds from Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs), Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), and Health Reimbursement Accounts (HRAs) put toward healthcare expenses. However, if you and your spouse do choose to file your taxes jointly, you may have to pay surtaxes on Medicare because your income level is higher.

Same-sex couples can now, in most qualified plans, be the sole primary beneficiary on their spouse’s retirement plans, including defined contribution and defined benefit plans. Another consideration is whether you would like to update your IRA (both Regular and Roth IRAs) to add your spouse as the beneficiary if he or she is not yet the person listed. That way, your surviving spouse would be able to roll your IRA into his or her IRA upon your death without any consequences at the time of the rollover. You may now also consider a spousal IRA or contemplate making contributions to your IRA based on you and your spouse’s combined income.

Same-sex couples should be able to file for Social Security spousal benefits at the appropriate time. However, note that spousal or survivor benefits should be factored into financial plans and couples are encouraged to discuss their plans with a knowledgeable advisor about how best to optimize these benefits. You may also want to consider adding your spouse to your voluntary group life insurance plan if that is something that your employer offers.

In terms of estate planning and planning for the transfer of your assets, it is very important to make sure that you keep your estate documents updated and implement any spousal related tax-deductions that you may now be eligible for. Same-sex spouses are now able to gift things to each other without being subject to federal income taxes or gift taxes. Be sure to also determine if your property is titled in a manner that will allow for transfer rights and taxation, and if you file taxes jointly, then the $500,000 home sale tax exclusion applies. It is also crucial to make sure that your power of attorney authorizations are current in relation to financial matters as well as medical care.

Anyone planning to be married should seriously consider having a prenuptial agreement executed with their future spouse. Our Firm can help you with that, of course.

Interested in learning more about the legal services offered by the ZAVOS JUNCKER LAW GROUP, PLLC? Please visit us on our website at www.zavosjunckerlawgroup.com.

This Press Release is provided for informational purposes only. While every effort has been made to ensure accuracy, the contents of the Press Release should not be construed as legal advice, which, of necessity, must relate to specific factual situations and claims. This Press Release DOES NOT create an attorney-client relationship between our Firm and any reader. You are urged to consult with counsel concerning your own situation. Our Firm is available to assist you.

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