Estate Planning for Non-Traditional Families

Suzie’s San Francisco neighborhood as a child was the home to many nontraditional families. Because she grew up in such a diverse city, she enjoys helping unmarried and same-sex couples provide in a private and thoughtful way for the orderly succession of ownership of their property and for the care and support of their children.

On June 26, 2013, the United States Supreme Court in United States v. Windsor, No. 12-307, 2013 U.S. LEXIS 4921 (U.S. June 26, 2013), found that § 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”), which defines “marriage” and “spouse” as excluding same-sex partners, is unconstitutional. The Court reasoned that:

The differentiation demeans the couple, whose moral and sexual choices the Constitution protects. . . and whose relationship the State has sought to dignify. And it humiliates tens of thousands of children now being raised by same-sex couples. The law in question makes it even more difficult for the children to understand the integrity and closeness of their own family and its concord with other families in their community and in their daily lives. Id. At *43. Following Windsor, partners married in jurisdictions recognizing same sex marriage (currently 13 other states and 15 foreign countries) are eligible for a broad range of federal benefits which touch on married and family life, including the ability to claim the federal estate tax exemption for surviving spouses, and Social Security survivor benefits.

Unfortunately, the Colorado Constitution still defines marriage as “[o]nly a union of one man and one woman.” COLO. CONST. art. II, § 31. The Colorado Civil Union Act (“Act) became effective May 1, 2013. Partners in a Colorado civil union have many of the same rights, benefits, protections, duties, obligations and responsibilities as married couples, but remain unable to take advantage of federal benefits following Windsor. Further, it is unclear whether federal benefits will be based on the state of celebration, or state of domicile. Colorado now recognizes civil unions formalized in other states, however, same-sex marriages solemnized outside Colorado will be considered only civil unions in our state.

Recognizing these limitations, Suzie uses the tools available to her to help nontraditional families achieve their goals in this rapidly changing area of law. Contact our Denver estate planning attorneys today at (303) 991-4676 to discuss your legacy goals and this rapidly changing area of law.