In compiling my year-end checklist, I couldn’t help but think about those same-sex couples whose lives have changed this year because of the Windsor case. And because of this new access to federal benefits and protections, I’ve added a few more documents, in addition to those discussed yesterday, that legally wed same-sex couples should review before the year ends:
1) Employment Benefits: Your employment benefits need to match your current marital status. As I’ve discussed before, your employment benefits are taxed differently as a married couple rather than domestic partners. Therefore, review your benefit plans to make sure you now pay your premiums on a pre-tax basis. This distinction can save you thousands of dollars in additional tax come next year’s deadline.
2) 2010 and 2011 Tax Returns: Remember that if you were married in a state that recognized same-sex marriage in 2010 and 2011, you can now go back and amend your prior-year tax returns. Whether amending your returns benefits you depends on several factors. So review each spouse’s return and gather any documents you may need in order to consult your tax professional early in the filing season. Believe me, you are much better off getting the prior year returns amended early, rather than waiting until next year’s deadline approaches and finding out your preparer doesn’t have time to complete the returns.
3) Estate Planning Documents: I mentioned wills and trusts yesterday. Same-sex couples also need to review their health care proxies and powers of attorneys to update the language regarding your marital status. The last thing you need in a time of crisis is someone contesting the validity of your documents because you used the phrase “domestic partner” rather than “spouse.” Save yourself the hassle and update your documents.
While the federal government now treats all married couples equally, the transition from non-recognition to recognition will still require some couples to analyze their legal documents more carefully. Take the time as the year wraps up to make sure your documents reflect your current marital status.