Since May 2014 when DOMA was struck down in Pennsylvania, same-sex couples have been celebrating. Lines formed outside the marriage license department and numerous couples were finally able to make their vows official and legal. However, did some run to the altar too fast? Are the same-sex couples who are not racing to the altar getting penalized?
In Pennsylvania, same-sex married couples are now afforded the same rights as heterosexual married couples. They can deed real property as tenants by the entirety; get healthcare through their spouse’s employer, file joint tax returns, and get a 0% inheritance tax rate between spouses.
Same-sex married couples can also be divorced and laws of equitable distribution, alimony and other Pennsylvania Domestic Relations laws will apply. That means appreciation of pre-marital property and assets and debts acquired during the marriage can be subject to equitable distribution. The new law also means that same-sex married spouses have the duty to financially support each other and may be ordered to pay support and/or alimony.
With regard to estate planning, your spouse can also inherit from you regardless of if you include him or her in your will by taking his/her elective share which can be one-third to one-half of your estate when you die.
For those who are taking a breather before racing down the aisle, you will not be able to take advantage of the many benefits marriage can offer but you will also not be subjected to the Domestic Relations laws in Pennsylvania regarding equitable distribution and alimony.