Today’s historic Supreme Court decision, Obergefell v. Hodges, affirmed a constitutional right to same-sex marriage in all 50 states, opening up tax, estate planning and employee benefits opportunities for couples in the 13 states that have not permitted same-sex marriage. For one, same-sex married couples may be able to claim state income tax refunds. They no longer have to worry about state estate taxes at the death of the first spouse. And they may save on health insurance at work.
Same-sex couples in these states have been operating in a “sort of limbo situation,” says Nicole Pearl, an estate lawyer with McDermott Will & Emery in Los Angeles. (The states are: Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Tennessee and Texas.) If they got married out-of-state, they could get the federal benefits of marriage but their home state could still deny them the benefits of marriage under state law. So they could file a joint federal income tax return but not a joint state income tax return, for example. The first to die could leave property to the other, without the survivor needing to pay federal estate taxes, but there was a same-sex state death tax trap.