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By: Scott Grossman on September 12th, 2016

Same Sex Couples: Estate Administration and Assets

On June 26th, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a historic ruling concerning the right of same-sex couples to marry. The case, Obergefell v. Hodges, was argued in April, with the decision handed down in late June. Therefore, the marriage of same-sex couples must now be recognized in all states. Furthermore, this ruling dramatically impacts estate planning and administration, both during periods of incapacity and after the death of the first spouse for the same-sex couple. Likewise, California has already seen changes concerning same-sex marriage and estate administration; however, this Supreme Court ruling means that the rights of same-sex couples will be more uniform throughout the nation.

3 Types of Assets Impacted By Same-Sex Couples Ruling:

Federal recognition of same-sex marriage will impact many aspects of estate administration. One such area that the ruling will affect is the handling and titling of certain assets. Therefore, the following are three examples of assets that may be impacted concerning estate administration for same-sex couples, either during periods of incapacity or following the death of one spouse:

  1. Retirement assets. While surviving spouses in a same-sex marriage can now inherit an IRA as a rollover IRA instead of an inherited IRA. Most noteworthy, this allows the surviving spouse to defer withdrawing funds from the account until age 70 ½.
  2. Social Security benefits. As a result, now surviving spouses in a same-sex marriage qualify as a spouse for Social Security benefits.
  3. The primary residence. If the primary residence is sold, same-sex married couples can now exclude up to $500,000 of gains on the sale of the property. Yet, previously same-sex married couples may have been treated as “single” and therefore could only exclude $250,000 in gains.

With such complex laws and a constantly changing landscape, estate administration is difficult for those without experience. Fortunately, we are here to help.


If you are ready to start your case, then please give us a call or fill out our Get Help Now form. A comprehensive overview of California Probate is available here. Should you have additional questions about trust litigation, you will find plenty of helpful information in our Learning Center.