In October, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear appeals from five states, including Virginia, that sought to prohibit same sex marriage. Critics of the rejection have argued that the Court should have engaged the issue in order to set a national standard. But regardless of whether the Court should have reached further by ruling on the appeals, the refusal to hear the cases effectively legalizes same sex marriage in the appellant states.
This means that weddings between same sex couples began immediately in the Commonwealth. In addition, same sex couples currently residing in Virginia who were married in states where such marriages were already legal will now be subject to all Virginia state laws governing marriage, including divorce, estate, and tax law.
The Court’s 2013 decision in U.S. v. Windsor extended federal protection and recognition to same sex marriage, with the result that same sex couples became subject to all federal tax law. (For more details, see the post of September 25, 2013.) Although this pair of decisions inarguably expands same sex rights, it also requires the same sex married couples to navigate and comply with all laws and regulations, both federal and state, that previously just applied to heterosexual married couples.
These changes should prompt all same sex married couples to consider contacting an attorney to review their estate plans and update them, if necessary.