Same-Sex Spouses and the Marital Deduction

One of the key tax benefits available to married couples in the United States is the marital deduction. Thanks to the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage, this deduction is now available to same-sex couples all across the country. Below is some basic information to help you better understand this deduction, so that you can incorporate it into your estate planning strategy.

What is the Marital Deduction?

The marital deduction is a tax benefit that allows a spouse to leave any amount of property or funds to his or her surviving spouse after death without incurring gift or estate taxes. In many cases, this deduction will not only reduce the estate's total tax amount, but it will also prevent the estate from owing any taxes at all.


Assume a deceased person leaves behind an estate worth $10 million. He leaves his spouse $8 million worth of property, and the remaining $2 million is distributed to other beneficiaries. As a result of the marital deduction, the $8 million the deceased individual left to his spouse will be deducted from the taxable estate. This leaves the estate with a taxable value of only $2 million, which is well within the $5.43 million estate tax exemption limit, so no tax is owed.

Implications of the Law

Prior to the Supreme Court's ruling in Obergefell, same-sex couples did not qualify for the marital deduction. In the example above, the property left to the deceased individual's same-sex partner would have remained part of the taxable estate. However, under the new law, married same-sex couples can take advantage of this tax benefit and reduce or eliminate their estate taxes.

Gudorf Law Group would be honored to help you and your spouse develop an effective, coherent estate plan. Please connect with us at 1-937-898-5583 for a free consultation.