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Lift of Prohibition on Same-Sex Marriages in Pennsylvania Provides New Estate Planning Opportunities

On June 17, 2014 by Schnader

On May 20, 2014, in the case of Whitewood v. Wolf, Judge John E. Jones III of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania struck down Pennsylvania’s ban on same-sex marriages. Like many of the rulings recently issued in other federal courts, the court found the ban in violation of the constitutional protections of due process and equal protection. The next day, Governor Tom Corbett announced that his administration would not appeal the ruling.

The decision comes nearly a year after the Supreme Court of the United States proclaimed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional in the landmark decision United States v. Windsor. Shortly after the Windsor decision, the Internal Revenue Service announced it would follow the ruling and recognize, for tax purposes, all legal same-sex marriages regardless of the current residence of the couple. Until Judge Jones’ ruling, however, same-sex marriages were not allowed in Pennsylvania and same-sex marriages occurring out of state were not recognized in Pennsylvania for state law purposes.

This change has a profound effect on estate planning for same-sex couples residing in Pennsylvania.

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