Registered Washington State Domestic Partners
If you currently have a Washington State domestic partner, here are some key points you should know:
- If you decide to marry your partner, your domestic partnership will be dissolved on the date of your marriage.
- If both of you are younger than age 62, and you decide not to get married – your domestic partnership will be automatically converted into a marriage as of June 30, 2014. An exception exists if you’re in the process of a dissolution, annulment, or legal separation as of that date.
- If one of you is 62 years of age or older, your relationship will not automatically be converted into a marriage. You can choose whether to get married or to leave your domestic partnership as is. You should seek legal advice when making this choice, to make sure that getting married would not negatively impact you in terms of pension rights, Social Security benefits, etc.
Ability to Access Washington State Marital Deduction
If you have a Washington domestic partnership or gay marriage, and you have tax planning mechanisms in your Will such as a disclaimer trust or a credit shelter trust, the new law will enhance your ability to minimize or avoid Washington estate tax. Specifically, prior to the passage of Referendum 74, Washington domestic partners were scheduled to be able to utilize these tax planning mechanisms, just like Washington heterosexual married couples can, as of January 1, 2014. The good news is that, if you decide to get married, these tax planning benefits can be available to you right now! You don’t need to wait.
If you have any questions about these changes in Washington law, and how they might impact any estate planning documents you presently have in place, please do not hesitate to contact my office.
Federal Marital Tax Deduction
Please note that changes are afoot on a federal level as well! In the 2013 U.S. Supreme Court decision of United States v. Windsor, Edith Windsor lawfully married her partner, Thea Spyer, in Canada. The couple resided in New York. Upon Ms. Spyer’s death, Ms. Windsor discovered that she owed significant federal estate tax obligations because the federal government did not recognize their relationship for federal estate tax purposes. Ms. Windsor filed suit. Ultimately, the U.S Supreme Court ruled in her favor, determining that the federal Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”) was unconstitutional in its limitation of the terms “spouse” and “marriage” to heterosexual unions. This decision creates new opportunities for gay and lesbian married couples to do significant federal estate tax planning.
Our office represents gay and lesbian couples in providing comprehensive estate planning services. Our work is designed to reduce the stress and expense of a probate proceeding, and to make sure the intentions of the couple are fully realized.