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Estate Planning for Same-Sex Couples in Washington

  • By: Christopher Benson
  • Published: October 17, 2013

In light of the Supreme Court Ruling in 2013 in which certain provisions of the Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”) were stricken, things have changed dramatically for same-sex married couples in those States who already recognize same-sex marriages.

The great news is that Washington is one of those States. Therefore, if you are legally married in Washington and you are a same-sex couple, now the Federal Government will also consider you married for Federal Income Tax Purposes, Social Security, insurance and retirement plan benefit purposes.

Along with the change comes the need for all married persons to have Peace of Mind Planning in place (i.e. Power of Attorney, Health Care Directive, Guardianship Designation, Living Will, Revocable Living Trust).

All married people get to file their income taxes together and share insurance policies; but, you also have to take care of the other details of being married as well.

Now is the time for you to take care of the details.

All married couples in Washington should make sure they each have valid wills, advance medical directives, and power of attorney that all name their spouse. However, there are a are a few other items that need additional attention.

  • Children. Often, only one parent in a same-sex relationship is legally recognized. One way to provide for survivors after the death of a partner is to name the surviving partner the guardian of the child’s estate. You can also
  • Joint bank accounts. Specify in both parties’ wills that parties opened joint bank accounts and intended them to be held jointly, with the proceeds going to the survivor. Be explicit that the accounts were not intended to be “accounts of convenience.”
  • Real Estate. If you own real estate, you need to address what is going to happen with the real estate in the event a spouse passes away or become medically unable to make decisions concerning contract and financial issues.
  • Utilize designation of agent. A designation of agent form allows a person to name their spouse to name the other for many purposes in one document that covers funeral arrangements, hospital visitation, and possession of personal property.

Even with these additional safeguards in place to protect your family, you need to make sure you keep up with changing laws and regulations and update all of your wills and directives accordingly. Keep outdated documents that state your preferences, as they can help provide a written record of your intentions after you are gone.

With a little bit of forethought and planning, you can ensure that your real estate and financial accounts will be taken care of now and in the future. One of the benefits of Living Trusts and Peace of Mind planning is that you can keep it confidential until you decide to tell someone about it or the need arises to disclose your planning to other family members.

As your lawyer, we will help you take control of your situation and prepare a plan of action and make arrangements to design a plan to help all married couple create an estate plan to address their concerns and achieve their goals. With our assistance, we can offer methods to avoid the judicial process of probate and/or the legal hassle of obtaining guardianship in the event the need arises for your spouse.

Over the past 27 years, the Law Offices of Christopher A. Benson has helped more than 800 clients prepare and utilize simple and effective planning techniques to protect them and their families in order to avoid probate, save estate taxes, save money and save added emotional burden that comes from long term illness and/or death of a family member. Give us a call to schedule a free consultation to find out how we can help you and your family.

Christopher Benson

About the Author Chris served on the Board of Directors for Habitat for Humanity
Seattle/S. King County for 10 years and served as Vice President
of the organization during part of that time. Read More