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Same sex couples can now receive the fabulous feature of portability – and we are not just talking about Louis-Vuitton luggage!

Today, the Supreme Court gave DOMA [“Defense of Marriage Act”] the boot, holding that it’s definition of marriage (limited to a union between one man & one woman) violates the guarantee of equal protection provided by the Fifth Amendment. Keep in mind, this only applies on a Federal level, and States can still refuse to recognize same-sex marriages. Here in South Florida, same-sex marriage is not recognized on a State level. However, when it comes to estate planning, DOMA’s demise has many beneficial effects for same-sex couples in South Florida; especially when dealing with Federal taxes.

Let’s talk about portability in relation to taxes. Generally, an intra-spousal transfer is not subject to transfer taxes due to the marital deduction, and there is portability of the exemption amount. This means that when “Wife” transfers assets to “Husband,” those assets are not subject to any Federal transfer tax (gift or estate tax). Furthermore, each individual receives an estate tax exemption of $5,250,000. Lets just think of it as $5,250,000 worth of cash in a bag (luggage, if you will). What if Husband doesn’t use his entire exemption amount, as his gross estate is much smaller? Well, that’s where portability comes into play. All the cash in Husband’s luggage (that he never used) is wheeled on over to Wife. She now has her own luggage full of cash, as well as Husband’s luggage full of cash; giving her a pretty substantial protection from estate taxes. This way, Husband’s estate tax exemption is not wasted, as it transfers to the Wife.

Previously, same-sex married couples didn’t receive the benefit of portability, because they failed to fall into the spousal status of Federal law. Now, following the Supreme Court’s holding in United States v. Windsor, same-sex married couples receive the marital deduction, and have portability of their exemptions.

While this is certainly a great estate planning feature for same-sex couples, you don’t want to always rely on portability. Rather, you should plan for it, as there is a Wild array of estate planning techniques that will ensure your receive all of the benefits of the law.

For more information on successful Florida estate planning and asset protection, contact the South Florida law firm of Wild Felice & Partners, P.A. at 954-944-2855 or via email at mwild@wfplaw.com to schedule your free consultation.


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