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Estate Planning For Same-Sex Couples

Edith Schlain Windsor filed a lawsuit in Manhattan federal court after her spouse Thea Clara Spyer died in 2009. Windsor contested the Internal Revenue Service’s decision, which asked her to pay over $350,000 in estate taxes, and argued that a married heterosexual couple would not have faced the same tax.

The lawsuit, supported by gay-rights advocates, challenges a federal law established in 1996 that says marriage is solely between a man and a woman. Edith Windsor and Thea Spyer were legally married in Canada in 2007 and have been together for over 40 years, according to The Wall Street Journal. Although their marriage was recognized in the state of New York, the lawsuit said it was not acknowledged by the U.S. government.

“The government taxed what I inherited from Thea as though we were strangers rather than spouses,” said Edith Windsor. The lawsuit seeks to have the federal law declare the estate tax on Thea Spyer’s assets unconstitutional, and refund Windsor for the paying the tax.

The Times Herald-Record suggests that establishing a trust, rather than a will, may be a better option for same-sex couples. Trusts are private documents where you can designate someone you trust, known as a trustee, to settle your affairs in a private manner. Trusts also allow same-sex partners to appoint one another in powers of attorney, giving each the authority to take care of legal, financial, and medical affairs. Wills, however, involve going to court to settle an estate and make the proceeding public.

To learn more about same-sex options in estate planning or how your assets may be affected by the estate tax, seek legal counsel from an experienced NY estate planning attorney who can make sure your specific needs are met. For general information, visit the Related Resources links.

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