Rands & Sense for Married LGBTI Couples
Marriage represents a fundamental shift for any couple. And now that the recent Supreme Court ruling has opened the door for same-sex married couples to enjoy literally more than a thousand federal benefits previously only available to heterosexual married couples, it’s up to you and your spouse to take advantage of them. Many of these benefits are financial, making it easier to save and plan for the future. Of course, there are still a lot of issues to be clarified, but there are a number of things you can do right away to make the most of your new benefits.
You and your spouse should sit down at some stage and be in a position of being able to plan your future with an eye on your new financial opportunities.
Decide how you want to file income taxes
In the past, it has been complicated and difficult to combine your income tax return as married, now things are simpler. You can choose between filing a joint or separate income tax return. This doesn’t mean that your combined tax bill will necessarily go down; in fact, it may go up—especially if you both earn a substantial and similar amount of money.
Review your health insurance options
You can now be included on your spouse’s health insurance plan. Previously, same-sex married couples were treated as unmarried and had to pay income taxes on insurance benefits for the spouse.
If you’re both working, check with each of your company’s HR or benefits departments to see which would give you the best coverage at the lowest cost. This is potentially a huge savings.
Another plus is that you’re also now entitled to family medical leave to care for a sick spouse or other family member.
Check your beneficiary designations
Under the new ruling, your spouse is now the automatic sole beneficiary of your retirement assets, and must consent in writing to waive this benefit. If you’ve made other beneficiary designations on your employer retirement plan, contact your benefits department to update your beneficiary forms.
While you’re at it, double-check the beneficiaries on any insurance policies. These things can easily be forgotten, so use this opportunity to bring everything up to date.
Talk to an advisor
From retirement planning to estate planning to filing taxes to a myriad of employment, military and veteran’s benefits, marriage changes things—for everybody. For same-sex couples, there’s even more to think about. Best advice for you is to consult an accountant or financial planner who is familiar with financial issues for same-sex couples. Best to do everything you can to take full advantage of what’s now available to you—without taking anything for granted.