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Does Court’s inaction on gay marriage effect estate planning?

As the gay marriage issues grabs more headlines many local Florida residents wonder what the practical consequences of the changing laws are and whether they will be affected. One of the biggest effects for states that recognize gay marriage will come in the form of changes to the application of probate laws. Currently, every state has certain protections and default rules for spouses when their mate dies. What’s different in these states, however, is whether those rules apply to a same-sex spouse.

Suppose a state does recognize gay marriage. As a result of that recognition, a same-sex couple that is lawfully married will qualify for the protections and default rules mentioned above. While this may be helpful to those who failed to do any estate planning, the truth is its impact on those that planned properly will be minimal, if not non-existent.

The great thing about estate planning is it resides in a realm largely out of the reach of our ever changing legal landscape. But, understanding evolving laws and the changes which have and continue to occur is critical.

Gay marriage, it must be noted, is not the only family dynamic that has resulted in new laws over the past several years. Adoption, second marriages and other family scenarios have also caused the Florida legislature to make tweaks to probate laws. These changing laws and the societal ebbs and flows which bring them on can be rendered largely irrelevant if a Florida resident takes the time to generate a properly drafted estate plan.

Source: Miami/Ft. Lauderdale 7 News, “Supreme Court inaction leaves gay couples in limbo,” Mitch Weiss, Oct. 9, 2014

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