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Same Sex Marriage and the Effects on Financial Matters

Same sex couples now enjoy the very same financial planning abilities as heterosexual couples


I had previously blogged regarding the post Windsor rights of couples and the landscape in Pennsylvania following the Whitewood v. Wolf case decided on May 20, 2014. (See link to article which provides a detailed background).  I had noted that same-sex couples in Pennsylvania can now enjoy the same tax advantages and social security benefits as opposite-sex married couples.  I wanted to develop this a bit more and add some specific areas for discussion.

Health Insurance Benefits

The LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender) client is now permitted to enroll in the employer-provided health care benefit plans offered to heterosexual couples.  The employee and their spouse must satisfy all the requisite eligibility criteria to receive the benefits.  They must be legally married and be a lawful spouse.

Additionally, there may be enrollment entitlements outside the normal period.  Federal law permits a newly-married spouse to be enrolled within 30 days of the date of marriage.  The 30 day clock would start as of the date of marriage in PA.  For those marriages in other states, it would be prudent to use the 30 day start date from the Whitewood decision on May 20, 2014.

FMLA Leave

An employer must provide the same leave to LGBT clients that are lawfully married in Pennsylvania.  The Family Medical Leave Act ("FMLA") provides eligible spouses with up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave to care for a spouse with a serious health condition.  This may not be paid leave, which is entirely different.  Further, union agreements with their employer may provide additional coverages.

Worker's Compensation

It is anticipated that under the Jones decision in Whitewood, the same benefits payable to a spouse under the Worker's Compensation Act will be available to same-sex couples.

Elective Share and Estate Tax

In Pennsylvania, spouses may be entitled to the first one-third of an estate, with some limited exceptions.  This is despite wording in a Will to the contrary.  This is what's known as the spouse's "elective share."  This was not previously available to a same-sex couple.  Further, estate tax for a surviving spouse is 0%.  Assets passing from one spouse to another upon death are not taxed.  Tax imposed on assets transferring from a party to a third party, non-spouse/non-relative, is 15%.  The higher 15% rate has now been negated by the Whitewood decision.