PITTSBURGH, May 21, 2014 /PRNewswire-iReach/ -- Judge John E. Jones III reaffirmed Pennsylvania same-sex couples' right to marry today. Judge Jones struck down the state's same-sex marriage ban and cleared the way for Pennsylvania to recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages. Pennsylvania was the last state in the Northeast to ban same-sex marriages. With the decision, Pennsylvania joins19 other states that both legally recognize and allow same-sex marriages. While Judge Jones did not issue a stay, allowing marriages to begin immediately in Pennsylvania, the State has 30 days to appeal the decision.
Along with the ability to get married in Pennsylvania, Lange suggests that there are many other points couples should consider. "Married same-sex couples will now be able to file their state income tax returns as married, and have the option to file jointly; and that the Pennsylvania death certificates of married same-sex couples will accurately reflect their marital status and name their surviving spouse," says Lange, author of the new book Retire Secure! for Same-Sex Couples. "More importantly, this decision will also mean that federal protections such as spousal and survivor Social Security benefits, which are now available only to couples whose marriages are legally recognized in the state in which they reside, will be available to married same-sex couples in Pennsylvania."
Defendants in the case include Michael Wolf, the Pennsylvania Secretary of Health, and Dan Meuser, the Pennsylvania Secretary of Revenue. Governor Tom Corbett's office led the defense of the law banning same-sex marriage after Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane refused to defend it, calling it unconstitutional.
The plaintiff's winning argument indicated that the law caused undue harm on same-sex couples and their children by not allowing them access to the significant legal and financial benefits that straight married couples enjoy.
Mr. Lange offers four tips for couples thinking about marriage to consider before tying the knot.
- Go Into Marriage With Your Financial Eyes Wide Open. The couples who will benefit the most financially will likely be same-sex couples in their 60s or older where at least one person of the couple as a significant IRA or retirement plans. "While this is a huge decision that will ultimately change the lives of so many, the ruling can be appealed," cautions Lange. "But since no immediate stay was issued, couples should begin thinking through what their financial lives will look like as a married couple."
- Consider How Marriage Affects Social Security Benefits. If you qualify and it is appropriate in your situation, apply for Social Security spousal benefits. If one of you die, you can plan to collect survivor benefits. "Even if the ruling is appealed, the Social Security Administration has indicated that when marriage is legal in Pennsylvania they will backdate benefits to the date of filing," says Lange.
- Marriage and Estate Planning. With same-sex marriages being legally recognized in Pennsylvania, there are several ramifications for estate planning. "Couples should act now to prepare or amend wills and trusts to make sure your assets are disbursed consistently with current laws, but also with provisions in case an appeal is in effect at the time of your or your spouse's death," says Lange.
- Seek Professional Advice. As with all important financial decisions, Lange suggests that couples speak with a qualified tax advisor about the benefits of revising old tax returns and how to take advantage of being able to file jointly on future tax returns. "Couples need to be sure they have all the knowledge they can to prepare for their financial lives as a married couple," says Lange. "Lange Financial Group regularly hosts free workshops for same-sex couples to attend to sort out their financial lives together." One set of such workshops is being offered on Saturday, May 31 at the Wyndham Pittsburgh University Center from 9:30 a.m. – 3:45 p.m. The workshops will cover new estate and financial planning strategies for same-sex couples. Full details about the free workshops can be found at http://outestateplanning.com/workshops/. Reservations for the workshop can be made by calling 412-521-2732.
About Jim Lange
James Lange, CPA/Attorney is a nationally recognized Roth IRA and retirement plan distribution expert. He's also the best-selling author of the first and second edition of Retire Secure! and The Roth Revolution: Pay Taxes Once and Never Again. With over 30 years of experience, Jim offers unbeatable recommendations.
Jim's recommendations have appeared 30 times in The Wall Street Journal, 23 times in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, The New York Times, Newsweek, Money magazine, Smart Money and Reader's Digest. His articles have appeared in The Journal of Retirement Planning, Financial Planning, The Tax Adviser (AICPA), and other top publications.
For more information about today's ruling that overturned Pennsylvania's ban on same-sex marriage visit, www.outestateplanning.com.
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SOURCE James Lange, CPA/Attorney