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By Christine Benz | 07-22-2013 03:00 PM

Post-DOMA Planning Primer

Same-sex couples in states that recognize their marriage will need to revisit their Social Security, income-tax filing, and estate-tax plans following the recent Supreme Court decision, says Tim Steffen, director of financial planning for Baird's Private Wealth Management Group.

Christine Benz: Hi, I'm Christine Benz for Morningstar.com.

The Supreme Court recently struck down some key aspects of the Defense of Marriage Act. Joining me to discuss the financial planning implications of the ruling is Tim Steffen. He is director of financial planning for Baird's Private Wealth Management Group.

Tim, thank you so much for being here.

Tim Steffen: Thanks again.

Benz: The Supreme Court a couple of weeks ago struck down some key aspects of the Defense of Marriage Act. Let's talk about some of the key ones that affect same-sex couples from a financial planning perspective.

Steffen: The big one now is that same-sex couples are now entitled to all the same federal benefits that opposite sex couples have always been entitled to. So, you can start with some of the federal benefit programs, and the big one that's gotten the most attention is probably Social Security. Same-sex partners and couples now have the ability to apply for spousal benefits, and in fact the Social Security Administration recently said that they are now accepting applications based on same-sex spousal benefits. So, a lot of the Social Security planning that's always been out there for opposite-sex couples is now available for those same sex couples as well.

Benz: A little bit of a wrinkle here is that, your state must recognize same-sex mirage in order for you to be eligible for those benefits.

Steffen: Absolutely, and it's a pretty small list of states right now where that would apply. And that's one of the areas of uncertainty really that has yet to be fully fleshed out is that, if you were, for example, married in a state that recognized that, but you've now moved to a state that does not, how exactly does that impact your access of those federal benefits. I think the early presumption is that you would not have access to those, but I think that still remains to be seen entirely.

Benz: Is there any clarity on back benefits? So, if you've been married for a while and you've not been able to claim those spousal benefits, is it possible to maybe get back benefits?

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