Since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned part of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in June 2013, financial planning for same-sex couples has become more complicated, not less, according to Professor Gregg Parish of the College For Financial Planning (CFFP) in Centennial, Colo.
The complex nature of state and federal regulations regarding lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual couples makes the Accredited Domestic Partnership Advisor (ADPA) designation, which the college offers, as valuable now as it was when first offered in 2010, Parish says.
To date, 547 financial professionals have earned the ADPA designation, which earns the recipient three graduate credit hours and up to 45 hours of continuing education credit. The course requires nine to 11 weeks of study and is designed to prepare advisors to navigate the labyrinth of rules that apply to LGBT couples.
In June, the Supreme Court overturned part of DOMA and said that for federal purposes, same-sex couple marriages had to be recognized just as heterosexual marriages were recognized. But it allowed states to continue to determine if they wanted to allow same-sex marriages for the purposes of state benefits. Cases are working their way up to the Supreme Court level that may resolve that issue and whether states that do not allow same-sex marriage have to recognize marriages conducted in a state that does allow them.
To further complicate matters, not all federal agencies define a legitimate same-sex marriage in the same way. Some recognize the “state of celebration” (where the marriage was performed) when the couple applies for federal benefits no matter where they live at that time. Others recognize the “state of residence,” so the marriage has to be legal where the couple lives at the time they apply for federal benefits.
Thirty-one states have statutes or constitutional amendments against same-sex marriage. The remainder allow same-sex marriages, allow civil unions, or are silent on the subject.
“Overturning part of DOMA helped same-sex couples, but it did not solve all of the problems,” Parish says. “It is important for an advisor to know how to plan for these couples.”