One More Reason

Why we need marriage, and why you need to have wills and do estate planning if you’re part of a same-sex couple. Our relationships are not protected, and if your partner dies unexpectedly, you have no guaranteed rights. Just ask Betty Jordan.

During their 19-year relationship, Rene Price and Betty Jordan thought of themselves as married, especially after they registered as domestic partners on the last day of 2004.

But after Price died unexpectedly in July, Jordan learned that she was not entitled to the couple’s Perth Amboy home, their cars, or the $9,000 in Price’s bank account.

Price’s death at age 61 exposed one of the many places where New Jersey’s domestic partnership law does not treat partners like married couples: When a domestic partner without a will dies, the surviving partner has no right to his or her possessions.

Jordan, 66, filed a lawsuit against the state on Friday, contending she should be entitled to take ownership of Price’s estate. Though she’s not the owner, Jordan has continued to live in the home and drive the car that Price owned.

…For married couples without wills, the surviving spouse automatically gets the estate. Hyland said that even when someone has a will before being married, does not revise it to include his or her spouse, and then dies, there is a provision to take care of the surviving spouse.

Imagine, in the middle of your grief, having to right to keep what’s left of your life. Now imagine that you also have kids to take care of, and that you have to fight to keep the resources that anyone else &madsh; that is, anyone who could legally marry their spouse — could simply take for granted.

But there’s more. Even with a will, items like a house or car or bank account that are inherited after a partner’s death are considered gifts if you’re unmarried and their value exceeds $10,000. That means you have to pay taxes on them upon receiving them, whereas a legal spouse would not.

Chalk that up as another reason we need marriage equality.

(Via Gay News Blog.)

About Terrance

Black. Gay. Father. Buddhist. Vegetarian. Liberal.
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2 Responses to One More Reason

  1. KipEsquire says:

    For married couples without wills, the surviving spouse automatically gets the estate.

    Only if there are no children. If there are, then depending on the state, the spouse and the children might split the estate according to a formula.

    In New York State for instance, the surviving spouse gets the first $50,000 (plus the household and personal effects and such), then the remainder of the estate is split evenly, one-half to the spouse and one-half to the children.

  2. Clint says:

    Definitely one of the bigger injustices — and one of the downsides of the “incremental” approach that New Jersey has taken towards marital rights.

    Re: the tax issues… estate and gift taxes are the same thing, and include a “one-time-only” exemption of some large number ($600,000?? more??) before taxes begin to be charged (after which the taxes are something like 50%). So, unless the dead partner had previously claimed this exemption, most (or all) of her estate should pass tax-free (though with the real estate market as it is, a house could push the limit…)

    This is a federal issue — and really, the quickest way we’ll get equal treatment on the estate tax is to just get rid of it permanently (as the GOP would like to). We’re going to have full marital rights in most states long before the Federal government gets around to giving us the marital exemption from the estate tax or Social Security survivorship benefits.

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