A group of legal and financial advisors presented an information session to educate couples on their new options following the Supreme Court's ruling to strike down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act ( DOMA ).
The post-DOMA retirement and estate planning seminar was held Nov. 9 at Little Goat Kitchen.
Attendees were briefed on issues including accessing federal benefits such as Social Security, and a variety of other financial management alternatives.
"Being afforded the same rights federally as heterosexual couples is something we're not used to," said Joseph Della Monica, a private wealth advisor for Ameriprise Financial. "It's impactful as far as retirement planning, estate planning and really changes the game in many ways that... for a legally married couple, there are now different strategies you have to consider."
Although the DOMA decision didn't require all states to recognize same-sex marriages, it allows couples to access an array of federal benefits depending upon the where the couple resides.
According to one of the presentations, "LGBT Estate Planning Post-DOMA," couples married and living in states that allow same-sex marriage are allowed virtually all the federal benefits of marriage. However, for couples living in states without same-sex marriage but were married in a state that allows it, they are able to access select benefits depending on each federal agency's policies.
The same presentation also cautioned couples that estate planning is still necessary, even though they can get married in another state and, eventually, in Illinois.
Ray Koenig III, an estate planning and elder-law attorney, said estate planning has been a costly prospect for same-sex couples whose relationships aren't legally recognized.
"Same-sex couples have never been able to create an estate plan that will mirror the rights granted to opposite-sex couples under the lawthat's been impossible no matter how much money they spent," said Koenig, a partner at Clark Hill. He anticipates this changing for Illinois couples once equal marriage becomes a reality in the state.
For couples who may wish to remain in long-term relationships but not marry legally, Koenig noted there may still be challenges given that laws are set up to favor married couples over unmarried couples.
One couple attending Saturday's seminar couldn't wait to access the legal benefits of marriageso much that they crossed state lines nearly two weeks ago to marry in Iowa.
Susan Fink and Michele Dziaba have together for more than 24 years. They've been protecting their relationship and finances with a variety of legal documents and consulting their financial advisor.
Both Fink and Dziaba said there was a lot they didn't know beforehand about how the DOMA ruling affects their relationship legally.
"Since DOMA was struck down, there's still so much misunderstanding about the implications. Even coming here and having been married just last weekend, we ... didn't know there were differences [in implementation] depending upon the government agency." Fink said.
She added that being legally married now allows them to get domestic partner benefits at work allows them to share healthcare coverage, which she said will have huge income implications for them. Fink's spouse nodded in agreement.
"A lot of my heterosexual friends don't realize the differences, the automatic benefits they get by being married," Dziaba said. "A seminar like this brings to surface what things you don't realize are available to you just because you have a different lifestyle."
Della Monica & Associates with Ameriprise Financial sponsored the event.