Same-Sex Marriages Legal in NC: Prenuptial Agreements & Estate Plans

Estate Planning

North Carolina LGBT tax planning

Estate planning for married LGBT couples in North Carolina.

Before October 10, 2014, same-sex marriages were not recognized in North Carolina. This posed complicated tax filing and estate planning challenges for North Carolina LGBT couples who legally married in an out-of-state jurisdiction.
Federal U.S. District Court Judge Max O. Cogburn, Jr. overturned the state’s ban on same-sex marriages in a lawsuit filed by clergy members. The case was filed to challenge Amendment 1, which was passed in 2012 and banned marriages between individuals of the same sex. Now that same-sex marriages are legal in North Carolina, all couples who plan to marry may want to consider the protections of a prenuptial agreement and ensure their estate plans are up-to-date.
Prenuptial Agreements for Same-Sex Couples
Any couple with pending nuptials, regardless of gender, could benefit from a premarital agreement. Premarital agreements outline assets each partner brings into the marriage, how assets would be divided in the event of divorce, how spousal claims and child support payments will be handled, and how assets acquired during marriage will be treated. Individuals who have been married before may need to address property issues or children in a premarital agreement. Spousal rights may not match a couple’s under North Carolina law. Creating a premarital agreement can help address the concerns of each spouse-to-be.
Estate Planning
In North Carolina, estate planning for same-sex couples was imperative to properly prepare and implement beneficiary designations, advance directives for healthcare, durable powers of attorney for financial matters, and more. Now that same-sex marriage is legal in North Carolina, all married couples may plan their estates with the same legal protections. Planning is still vitally important, but at least ALL married couples have the same rights. A comprehensive estate plan includes more than a just a Will. In addition to reviewing how each partner wishes to address the distribution of their assets in a Will, estate planning lawyers work with couples to determine if tools, like trusts, should be included in the plan.
Health Care
Employers should be expanding healthcare coverage to accommodate for the increase in spousal coverage that is likely to happen following the legalization of same-sex marriage. Some complications may arise for those employed by churches. The Charlotte Observer recently reported that some churches have released statements that their employees signed “agreement[s] that they will not do anything contradictory to the teaching of the Catholic Church.” These churches may take the position that same-sex marriage is in violation of religious beliefs and may refuse covering the healthcare of an employee’s same-sex spouse. Under these circumstances, couples may want to create a financial plan that addresses the cost of purchasing private health coverage.
Although a North Carolina magistrate has resigned after stating that performing civil marriages for same-sex couples violates his religious beliefs, and local news reports show at least one another magistrate has refused to perform ceremonies, the state ordered that all magistrates must comply. Some speculation started over repealing or suspending the legalization of same-sex marriage in North Carolina, but legal experts mainly agree a repeal will likely fail.
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