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Estate Planning for Same-Sex Couples

September 20, 2011

Ann and I went to a very informative seminar this morning: Wealth Planning for the Same-Sex Couple. It was presented by Jacquelyn S. Brennan, JD, LLM, PNC Wealth Management. Even though the topic was supposed to be about Wealth Planning, the speaker addressed many legal issues unique to same-sex couples. We reviewed different states’ relationship recognition, adoption, and health care laws. I was surprised to find out that Pennsylvania bans the recognition of marriages between same-sex couples. In Pennsylvania,  a same-sex partner can only be deemed an “agent” for health care purposes if there are no other “primary” next-of-kin available.   I have several clients who live here at the Jersey Shore, and own second homes in the Poconos. They spend time in both states, and some have plans to retire in Pennsylvania.  The Civil Unions they have obtained in New Jersey are not recognized in Pennsylvania.  Because of the Defense of Marriage Act, the rights obtained by someone in one state do not have to be recognized by another state.  Other states on the east coast that don’t recognize Civil Unions, or don’t have any Relationship Recognition for Same-Sex Couples include Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. These states are common “snow bird” destinations and I know many clients who own second homes or vacation homes in these states.   Planning their estates will require looking at the laws in each of these states, and figuring out how to keep the rights that same-sex couples have in New Jersey if they relocate to a state without relationship recognition.

The speaker was great, and although I have a great deal of experience in doing Estate Planning for Same-Sex couples, I learned some subtle nuances of the laws in various states that could affect my client’s rights.  I was also impressed with PNC Bank in general because it is focusing on the needs and rights of the LGBT community and looking for ways to support and better provide services to members of that community.


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