Gay marriage is in the news again, as a same-sex marriage pioneer has passed away in Los Angeles. Richard Adams died Dec. 17 at the age of 65, The New York Times reports.
Adams married Tony Sullivan, an Australian national, in 1975. The couple wed in Colorado during a brief period when such licenses were being granted to same-sex couples. After that, the couple fought incessantly to have their marriage recognized by the federal government, as the Immigration and Naturalization Service sought to deport Sullivan.
In response to an application for residency, an official rejection letter from the INS stated that the couple failed to establish "that a bona fide marital relationship can exist between two faggots," according to the Times.
Despite the fact that the couple sued the federal government, Sullivan was deported. The couple lived in Europe for a few years, before returning to the United States.
Now, with the recent cases involving the Defense of Marriage Act, the federal recognition of gay marriage may be at a turning point. For starters, President Obama has already directed the Department of Homeland Security to consider same-sex partners as family members when looking at deportation cases.
But in an estate planning context, what's interesting is how the tax laws may change. Or at least the application of them.
The estate tax marital deduction allows property to pass tax-free from the estate of the deceased to the surviving spouse.
As such, the property of the first spouse to die is out of the reach of the estate tax.
In a recent case involving a lesbian couple, a federal court ruled that the surviving spouse was allowed to take such a deduction, USA Today reports. The case is now headed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
While things are somewhat more complicated with regard to Richard Adams' estate, as his partner Tony Sullivan is not a U.S. citizen (currently, the estate tax marital deduction applies to citizen spouses), it nevertheless sets the stage for an interesting discussion on the future of gay rights within the estate planning realm, and may open the door to new estate planning possibilities for same-sex couples.
- Search Directory of New York Estate Planning Lawyers (FindLaw)
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- New Ruling! Lesbian Couple Can Take Estate Tax Marital Deduction (FindLaw's New York Estate Planning News)