Another important change affecting same-sex spouses as a result of the recent Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell involves the distribution of retirement plan funds following the death of the account owner. Now that the federal government has legalized same-sex marriage, same-sex spouses will be subject to the same guidelines with regard to retirement plans as other married couples. Likewise, same-sex couples will also have access to the same retirement-related tax benefits as other married couples under the new law.
Following the legalization of same-sex marriage, individuals with a same-sex spouse must name their spouse as the sole primary beneficiary of any qualified retirement plan they own. No other beneficiary can be named unless the spouse releases his or her right to inherit the plan in writing.
While other inheritors must begin making regular withdrawals from an inherited retirement plan shortly after the account owner's death, surviving spouses have other options. Rather than making withdrawals from the plan immediately, a surviving spouse can decide to roll the funds into his or her own IRA and postpone withdrawals until he or she reaches the age of 70 ½, instead. Thanks to the Supreme Court ruling, this option is now available to both heterosexual and same-sex couples.
Both of these changes offer protection for surviving spouses. The first change prevents a spouse from leaving his or her retirement plan to another person without permission, while the second change allows the surviving spouse to make the choice that is best for his or her financial future after inheriting an IRA.
At Gudorf Law Group, we celebrate the exciting and overdue ruling in Obergefell, and we’re available to help same sex couples explore and implement best practices for estate planning. Call us to schedule a free consultation to ensure your future at 1-937-898-5583.