After years of litigation, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has finally changed its policies to allow survivors of same-sex couples to collect survivor’s benefits. The new policy is a victory for equal rights advocates and will provide much-needed financial security for many families. Prior to the change, the SSA had been denying benefits to surviving spouses in same-sex relationships, even if the couple had been together for many years and would have married if laws allowed. The new policy recognizes that committed same-sex relationships deserve the same treatment as opposite-sex marriages. It will go a long way towards ensuring that all families are treated fairly and equally under the law.
In this blog post, we look at what affected the decision to make retroactive SS benefits available to eligible surviving partners of same-sex partnerships, how eligibility is determined, and how these benefits can affect your estate plan.
HOW AND WHEN DID RETROACTIVE SS BENEFITS BECOME AVAILABLE TO ELIGIBLE SURVIVING PARTNERS OF SAME-SEX MARRIAGE?
Same-sex couples and their families can obtain Social Security benefits thanks to the Supreme Court’s 2015 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, which held that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry in all states. Following that landmark case came Ely v. Saul (2020) and Thornton v. Commissioner (2020), which led to a 2021 policy change. Benefits may now be retroactively provided through Social Security to eligible surviving partners.
HOW IS ELIGIBILITY FOR RETROACTIVE SOCIAL SECURITY BENEFITS DETERMINED?
Eligibility for these retroactive benefits currently requires you to have filed an application for survivor’s benefits before November 25, 2020 and been denied due to laws prohibiting same-sex marriage. However, claims filed after that date will also be reviewed. The surviving partners must identify that unconstitutional state laws prevented them from marrying before their partner’s death for consideration for retroactive benefits.
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT OBTAINING RETROACTIVE SS BENEFITS
The recognition of marital status in all states was instrumental in this shift. Those wishing to obtain Social Security Income (SSI) should report the newest marriage, divorce, separation, or death because these status changes affect your income determination. There are three different types of benefits that may affect your estate plan: 1) retirement benefits for workers, 2) spousal benefits, and 3) survivor benefits.
WONDERING IF YOU’RE ELIGIBLE? HERE’S WHO YOU CAN CALL
If you would like to determine whether you are eligible for Survivor’s Benefits as a result of the death of your partner prior to the legalization of marriage, you can call the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213 or visit your local Social Security Office.
HOW CAN RETROACTIVE SOCIAL SECURITY BENEFITS AFFECT AN ESTATE PLAN?
One of the challenges of estate planning is that it can be difficult to anticipate all of the assets that will be available at the time of death. This is especially true for retirement accounts, which may fluctuate in value over the years. However, there is one type of retirement account that is often overlooked: Social Security benefits. While these benefits are not typically included in an estate plan, they can have a significant impact on the final distribution of assets.
If you receive a lump sum retroactive payment from Social Security, it will be important to reassess your tax situation. This means that if the estate’s total value (including lump sum retroactive payments of Social Security benefits) exceeds the $1 million Oregon Estate Tax threshold, a portion of the benefits may be taxed. For this reason, it is important to consider how Retroactive Social Security Benefits will affect an estate plan. Without proper planning, a significant portion of these benefits could be lost to taxes.
WHY SHOULD YOU ALWAYS KEEP YOUR ESTATE PLAN UPDATED?
When it comes to estate planning, the importance of regular updates cannot be overstated. Your estate plan should be reviewed and updated regularly in order to keep it current with your changing circumstances. Here are just a few of the many reasons why you should always update your estate plan:
1. Your personal circumstances may have changed.
Perhaps you’ve married, had children, or acquired new assets. These changes will impact how your estate is distributed, so it’s important to update your plans accordingly.
2. The law is always changing.
Estate planning laws are constantly evolving, so it’s important to keep up-to-date on the latest changes. This way, you can be sure that your estate plan complies with the law.
3. Your beneficiaries may have changed.
Over time, your beneficiaries may change – for example, if someone dies or becomes estranged from you. It’s important to update your beneficiaries regularly to ensure that they are still the people you want to receive your estate.
Regularly updating your estate plan is essential to ensuring that it remains effective and relevant. By keeping your plans up-to-date, you can be sure that your wishes will be carried out according to your latest wishes.
WHY ARE ESTATE PLANS IMPORTANT?
Estate planning is important for everyone, regardless of age or income. By putting an estate plan in place, you can ensure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes and that your loved ones are taken care of in the event of your death or incapacity. An estate plan can also help to minimize estate taxes and probate costs.
Estate planning services can vary depending on your needs and objectives, but they typically include creating or updating a will or trust, naming a guardian for minor children, designating a healthcare proxy, and making arrangements for the management of your finances and property in the event of your incapacity.
Estate planning can seem like a daunting task, but working with an experienced estate planning attorney can help to simplify the process and ensure that your estate plan is tailored to meet your unique needs.
YOUR LOCAL ESTATE PLANNING FIRM
At Collier Law, we understand that estate planning matters can be complex and confusing. However, our experienced team is dedicated to helping you through every step of the process. We take the time to get to know you and your family so that we can develop workable solutions that meet your unique needs. We also believe in developing long-term relationships with our clients and providing a calm and welcoming environment. To learn more about how we can help you with wills, trusts, Powers of Attorney, and other advanced estate planning techniques, call us today to schedule a complimentary consultation. We look forward to meeting you soon.
Services we offer include:
- Last Will & Testament Services
- Estate Probate Services
- Trust Administration Services
- Advanced Estate Planning Services
- Revocable Living Trusts
- Charitable Trusts
- Retirement Plan Trusts
- Irrevocable Trusts