Same Sex Marriage in New York Impacts Estate Planning

New York’s Marriage Equality Act went into effect on July 24, 2011 which legalized same-sex marriage. In addition to New York, six states (Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Iowa) and the District of Columbia currently recognize marriage between spouses of the same sex.  The legal rights and responsibilities of spouses are different than those of unmarried couples.

Section 3 of the New York Marital Equality Act states:

“No government treatment or legal status, effect, right, benefit, privilege, protection or responsibility relating to marriage, whether deriving from statute, administrative or court rule, public policy, common law or any other source of law, shall differ based on the parties to the marriage being or having been of the same sex rather than a different sex.”

Spouses have Special Rights

This language essentially guarantees that all married couples are entitled to the same rights under the law regardless of whether the marriage is between a man and a woman or between two members of the same sex.  For example, according to intestate law in New York a spouse is entitled to inherit all of the deceased spouse’s estate if there are no issue (descendents) and the deceased spouse did not have a last will and testament. Unmarried partners would not inherit anything under intestate laws in New York. Also, a surviving spouse in New York is entitled to receive one-third of the deceased spouse’s estate even if the deceased spouse had a will leaving the surviving spouse less.

Get Legal Help

Understanding your rights and those of your spouse are important factors in creating your estate planning documents. Experienced Estate Planning Attorney Elga Goodman can help you get started on making smart choices to preserve and grow your estate.  Contact us today at 973-841-5111 to learn more

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