Santa Cruz Good Times

Thursday
Aug 21st
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Spousal Rules

news2Upcoming event discusses the technicalities of taxes, legal issues and finances for same-sex married couples

For a long time, Greg Rowe told himself that marriage wasn't something he needed to have recognized by the federal government. But today, he feels differently.

Last week, Rowe, a licensed psychotherapist, married his partner of two years, Cesar Pasos. Thanks to recent court rulings, Rowe notes that a whole world of federal rights will now be available to the couple.

“The truth is, I deeply desire that—for my government to sanction and recognize my marriage,” he says. “I didn't even know it was a dream of mine.”

In June, the Supreme Court ruled that The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was unconstitutional, making gay marriages legally recognized in the eyes of the federal government and extending a wide range of benefits previously afforded exclusively to heterosexual married couples to their same-sex counterparts.

To shed some light on the federal changes that apply to couples such as Rowe and Pasos, three speakers—attorney Deborah Malkin, Enrolled Agent Cynthia Leachmoore, and financial planner Steve Shapiro—will discuss the legal issues surrounding marriage, tax filings, and finances, all within the scope of the DOMA ruling. The event will be held Thursday, Oct. 10 at Community Foundation Santa Cruz County in Aptos. Titled “DOMA—What's Next?” the free event is co-sponsored by Temple Beth El and the Diversity Center of Santa Cruz County.

Shapiro says same-sex married couples are now eligible for more than a hundred federal benefits, and that it's important for a couple to know what's changed and understand their options. A good place to start, he says, is to review their accounts, specifically beneficiary designations, the details of which may have changed.

Many financial issues that same-sex couples will want to learn about pertain to long-term planning, he says. One example is a couple's access to their Investment Retirement Account (IRA).

“If one spouse passes away, a surviving spouse has many more options as to what they can do with the deceased spouse's IRA money,” Shapiro says.

If one member of a couple is a nonworking spouse, they also have the ability to make an IRA contribution, adding to the pot of nontaxable wealth the two have for later in life.

“Unmarried partners do not have that benefit,” he explains.

Married couples also have more options for how much money they are legally required to take out of their IRA account once the account holder turns 70 and a half—“in other words, the money lasts longer,” Shapiro says.

Malkin, a local attorney, says many other, legal opportunities open up for same-sex married couples.

At the event, she will discuss the different legal ramifications from a state planning perspective between a Registered Domestic Partnership (RDP) and a marriage.

Same-sex couples in an RDP—recognized on the state level as the equivalent to marriage—will not receive the same federal benefits as a married couples.

One of the most notable developments for married couples are savings opportunities on estate taxes, which were previously subject to large federal taxation because the couple was not viewed as family.

“That's all changed,” Malkin says. “Now, if I were in a same-sex marriage, I could give my spouse anything and not have it be taxed on the federal level.”

The DOMA case—United States v. Windsor—revolved around an estate transfer.

When Edith Windsor's spouse, Thea Spyer, died in 2009, Windsor was forced to pay more than $350,000 in federal taxes on Spyer’s estate, which she would not have had to pay if the two had been a heterosexual married couple.

The ruling found that Section 3 of DOMA, which defined marriage as strictly a heterosexual union, was unconstitutional.

Other sections of DOMA, such as the power for individual states to choose whether or not they recognize a same-sex marriage, remain in law.

Transferring wealth is also much easier and not subject to federal taxation now that same-sex couples' marriages are federally recognized, Malkin says.

“Between legal spouses, you can give an unlimited amount,” she says.

Malkin says that prior to DOMA, same-sex couples filing taxes was a very complicated issue.

“It was very messy, tax wise,” she says. “You could file jointly on the state level but not on the federal level, and couples were doing multiple tax returns.”

Prior to the Supreme Court ruling, married same-sex couples were viewed by the Internal Revenue Service as state-sanctioned legal strangers, says Leachmoore, a tax professional.

“The fall of DOMA has ensured that all legally married same-sex couples may now partake in their share of the many tax-related benefits—and responsibilities—afforded to married couples in the joint recognition of their tax returns,” she says.

Sharon Papo, executive director of The Diversity Center, says the event is a chance for people to learn what the DOMA ruling means for them personally.

“Thousands of same-sex couples can get married and better protect each other and their children because they're no longer discriminated by federal policies intended to support families,” she says. “It's a wonderful victory.” 


“DOMA: What’s Next” takes place from 7 to 9 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 10 at Community Foundation Santa Cruz County, 7807 Soquel Drive, Aptos. Register for the event at domawhatsnext.eventbrite.com.

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Trending Now

Whether you live by the Vogue bible or choose to go into your day wearing what you slept in, odds are you wear clothes.

 

The Thought Form of Solution

It’s our last week of Leo before the sun enters Virgo (next Friday/Saturday). The planets this week make complex patterns and relationships (vibrational cadences and rhythms) with the outer planets, mainly Neptune—the planet that veils, obscures, protects and finally refines us. Neptune offers us entrance into a deeply spiritual sense of comfort and solace. Neptune is the personality ruler of Pisces (saviors of the world) and soul ruler of Cancer (world mother). “The fish goddesses who leapt from earth (Virgo) to water (Pisces) unitedly give birth to the Fish God (Christ, the Soul) who introduces the waters of life  (Neptune & Aquarius) into the ocean of substance (matter, mother bringing light to the world. Thus does Neptune work.” (Esoteric Astrology).

 

Final Cut

Cedar Street Video to close after 10 years at downtown location

 

Cultures Collide

No surprises, but lots to savor in foodie film ‘The Hundred-Foot Journey’
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

 

Foodie File: Kauboi

Japanese-Western themed unites sushi with whiskey and beefgrill

 

How should Santa Cruz develop downtown around the San Lorenzo River?

Santa Cruz | Artist/Show Promoter

 

Best of Santa Cruz County

The 2013 Santa Cruz County Readers' Poll and Critics’ Picks It’s our biggest issue of the year, and in it, your votes—more than 6,500 of them—determined the winners of The Best of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll. New to the long list of local restaurants, shops and other notables that captured your interest: Best Beer Selection, Best Locally Owned Business, Best Customer Service and Best Marijuana Dispensary. In the meantime, many readers were ever so chatty online about potential new categories. Some of the suggestions that stood out: Best Teen Program and Best Web Design/Designer. But what about: Dog Park, Church, Hotel, Local Farm, Therapist (I second that!) or Sports Bar—not to be confused with Bra. Our favorite suggestion: Best Act of Kindness—one reader noted Café Gratitude and the free meals it offered to the Santa Cruz Police Department in the aftermath of recent crimes. Perhaps some of these can be woven into next year’s ballot, so stay tuned. In the meantime, enjoy the following pages and take note of our Critics’ Picks, too, beginning on page 91. A big thanks for voting—and for reading—and an even bigger congratulations to all of the winners. Enjoy.  -Greg Archer, EditorBest of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll INDEX

 

Have Mercy!

Looking for a frisky summer wine at a reasonable price? Look no further than Mercy Vineyards’ 2013 Sauvignon Blanc ($20). Richly textured “with an exotic flavor profile,” the wine reveals aromas of honeydew melon and honeysuckle, with anise appearing as a star attraction. Smidgeons of pineapple and honeycomb add a touch of sexiness to this well-balanced, easy-drinking wine, which pairs well with a variety of cuisine —especially ceviche, calamari and other not-too-heavy foods.