May 09, 2012
Janis Cowhey, Tax & Business Services Partner, Quoted in Financial Advisor Magazine Article "Same-Sex Couples Face Maze of Financial Issues"
By Karen DeMasters
Because same-sex marriage laws differ depending on jurisdiction, advisors need to get educated on how to navigate the increasingly complex financial issues facing the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, according to experts in the field.
State laws differ and the federal government does not recognize gay marriage, which immensely complicates the issues of wills, medical directives, taxes and gifting, according to Janis McDonagh, a partner in the trusts and estates practice of Marcum LLP, a national accounting firm headquartered in New York City.
McDonagh was part of a panel discussion in New York City last week on the financial issues facing the gay community that was sponsored by Marcum and New York-based Bernstein Global Wealth Management.
"Federal law has not changed, so even if a gay couple marries in New York, that marriage is not recognized for federal income tax laws," said McDonagh, adding that this can trigger many problems.
A couple would file as single for federal purposes but are required to file as married for New York. They need to determine if it’s more advantageous to file married separate or married joint.
"Then what if one person works in New York and another works in Pennsylvania, where gay marriages are not recognized? You need to know how tax and other laws affect that couple. If a gay couple married in New York moves to Florida, where gay marriage is actually prohibited, they cannot divorce in Florida," she explained, illustrating just a few of the unexpected problems that can arise.
A financial advisor needs to rely on experts to navigate different state laws. "Don't just believe someone who says they are an expert. See if they have spoken on the subject and published articles," she cautioned.