New Laws of Marriage Life Planning – Are Crucial for Non-traditional Couples
August 28, 2008
On November 18, 2003, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that gay and lesbian couples have the right to civil marriage in Massachusetts. The ruling in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health is the first of its kind in this country by a state high court. The current approach by the Court has prompted much discussion in the legal community as to the effects a same sex marriage would have on children, assets, and liabilities of the couple.
To allow the Legislature “to take such action as it may deem appropriate in light of (its) opinion,” the Court stayed the entry of its judgment for 180 days. Thus, the Legislature has been afforded time to conform the marriage laws of the Commonwealth to the Court’s opinion. Some practitioners would argue that unless otherwise suggested by the context of the law, gender-specific laws are to be interpreted neutrally; therefore, the legislature need not take any action to effectuate the Court’s decision but that may be a risky interpretation for same sex couples to accept.
So how do same sex couples protect themselves, their loved ones, and accomplish their asset protection and estate planning goals? Couples should become aware of the options available to them to protect themselves and their loved ones in the event of unforeseen events. All couples, for example, should consider how to protect the assets that they bring to the marriage and how to prevent these assets from becoming marital property if that is what is desired. Couples must be aware that upon marriage all assets become assets of the couple unless there is a written mutual agreement to the contrary; thus,…
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by: Julie A. Dialessi-Lafley, Esq.