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Same-Sex Marriage Changes Finances

By Juliette Fairley

NEW YORK (MainStreet)--When the Supreme Court gave same-sex couples the same rights to federal benefits as heterosexual couples this past week, they were suddenly enabled to reduce or eliminate estate taxes.

In addition, married same-sex couples are now eligible for Social Security spousal benefits equal to half of a worker's retirement benefit as well as in the event of death.

"Same-sex couples can now create estate plans that are designed to reduce estate taxes but there are traps," said Robert F. Klueger, a noted estate planning attorney. "If a couple is married, one same-sex spouse may become liable for the debts of the other."

When asset protection is the paramount objective, a same-sex couple should consider entering into a prenuptial agreement that removes them from community property.

"As in most contexts, planning works better if it is done earlier rather than later," said Klueger.

Author Steve Siebold predicts that within the next ten years, marriage equality will be legal in all 50 states with nearly 20% planning to be wed in the next one to three years, according to a 2013 TheKnot.com & The Advocate Same-Sex Wedding Survey by Here Media/MRI.

"That's a huge increase from even a year ago and one that opens up an array of new opportunities," said Stephen Murray, Here Media's senior vice president for marketing and brand strategy.

The report found that 45% of those who took the survey are getting married in a state where civil unions or domestic partnerships are legally recognized while 40% will do so in a state where they are not recognized.

"We could not be more excited that 12 states and Washington, D.C. are finally allowing same-sex couples the right to marry, declare their love for one another and plan those weddings," said Rebecca Dolgin, The Knot's editor in chief. "We're excited to be at the forefront by being the first to provide this level of detail and information on how same-sex couples plan and how their weddings compare with those of straight couples."

But same-sex couples still face many challenges when planning their weddings.

Some 20% said that the paperwork and legal issues regarding their marriages being recognized was their biggest challenge. Another 20% were surprised by how stressful all the planning details could be.