November/December 2014Published Article

Estate Planning for the Modern Family

On Balance

Preparing an estate plan is a complicated and daunting task for most married couples. Unmarried individuals face even more complex challenges in estate planning. Federal tax law and state intestacy laws provide married couples with the ability to avoid taxes and leave assets to the objects of their natural bounty without the need for extensive planning. There are 1,138 federal law benefits, rights and protections provided for being married. Obviously, unmarried couples cannot take advantage of these provisions.

Same-sex unmarried couples are at a distinct disadvantage regarding certain estate planning techniques and protections enjoyed by opposite-sex married couples, including, but not limited to:

1) The unlimited marital deduction for gift and estate tax.
2) Intestacy laws in the event there is no will.
3) Marital/community property rights.
4) Employee Retirement Income Security Act benefits on retirement plans, and spousal rollovers of retirement plan benefits.
5) Various income tax benefits, like married filing jointly. Additionally, a contest by family members of unmarried couples are more likely, especially if they disapprove of the relationship, so the importance of proper planning and formalities are increased.

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