Marriage, Estate Equality Prevail in Maryland Referendum
Maryland voters Tuesday said “yes” to Question Six (the Maryland Same-Sex Civil Marriage Referendum), making the state one of the first to approve marriage equality by popular vote. While the narrow margin of approval (52%-48%) implies the state’s embrace of same-sex marriage was less a warm, full-bodied welcome than an obligatory, one-armed acknowledgement, that difference does not affect how the legal dominoes will fall.
Effectively, the passage of marriage equality in Maryland paves the way for same-sex couples to obtain future civil liberties, estate equality being chief among them.
We previously discussed estate equality in our review of the Estate Planning Rules for Same-Sex Couples Until 2013. “Estate equality” refers to the disparity in estate tax exemptions between traditional male-female spouses and their same-sex equivalents.
Separate but (Not) Equal
In Maryland, bereaved husbands and wives are able to take possession of their spouse’s assets are exempt from any estate or inheritance tax whatsoever. Until now, a separate (but not equal) rule book has applied for members of civil unions or spouses of out-of-state same-sex marriages who reside in Maryland. Those same-sex partners must pay the estate tax and Maryland’s inheritance tax on their partner’s assets when they pass.
The Domino Effect
Effective January 1, 2013, the Civil Marriage Protection Act permits marriages in Maryland regardless of the sex of the betrothed parties. Consequently, arcane laws – ones like those currently preventing same-sex spouses from enjoying the same estate and inheritance tax exemptions as traditional spouses – will begin to collapse, slowly at first but accelerating like so many dominoes as the lawsuits pile up.
I’ll be frank with you: The coming months will bring a lot of financial frustration to a lot of people as Congress and the President try to bridge the fiscal cliff. Hopefully, seeing progress like estate equality beckoning from the other side of the gorge will give us the motivation to get there in one piece.
We’ll discuss more estate planning for Maryland same-sex marriages in coming weeks. For now, here’s to estate equality, quality estate planning, and a damn fine game of dominoes!
Good luck and good hunting.
The Fisher Law Office is renowned for its experience in estate planning, probate administration, asset protection, and business law. Annapolis attorney Randall D. Fisher has practiced for over 20 years, maintains the highest peer review rating for ethics (AV Preeminent) by Martindale-Hubbell, and is a sucker for long walks on the fairways.
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