When it comes to finances, Stephen Mandeville and Victor Aluise are the kind of couple who cross their 't's and dot their 'i's. They became domestic partners in New York-which also put Mandeville on his partner's insurance at McGraw-Hill. They set up trusts in the names of relatives to cut their estate tax bill. They've made sure that all of their joint property is owned 50/50 so ownership is not in question should one of them die.

And now that they live in New Jersey, they plan on having a civil union ceremony, as soon as they find the time. They've planned for love, they've planned for sickness and they've planned for death. The one thing they will never plan for: divorce.

"Plan for divorce while we're still in love? Never," Mandeville says. "Why should we? We're gay. We're never getting divorced."

He's only half joking. But his sentiment is shared by many in the gay community. Yet financial planners warn that gay couples, more than their heterosexual counterparts, need to plan for divorce, or they may find themselves facing some hefty financial consequences.

"I don't think straight couples need to do financial planning to anticipate divorce the way gay couples do," says Frederick Hertz, an Oakland-based attorney who advises gay couples on marriage and divorce.

The main problem is that the federal government, as well as most states, does not recognize gay marriage. That means when a gay couple divorces, any cash, property or assets transferred between partners is considered a "gift" in the eyes of the Internal Revenue Service. And that means it can be taxed-though it's unclear whether the giver or the receiver would have to pay it. Even alimony is considered a gift. For heterosexual couples, alimony is normally deductible for the person paying it and counted as income for the person on the receiving end. But neither person is taxed.

And the idea that gay marriages are somehow stronger than their heterosexual counterparts is probably not a good bet, financial planners say. "Recent data shows that 50% of all marriages end up in divorce at some point, so you have to assume at least a percentage of that will apply to gay couples," says Susan Moore, a CFP licensee and president of Moore Financial Advisors LTD, in Watertown, Mass. "Here's the issue: When they split, we may see asset transfers ordered by a court that would have been tax-free for a heterosexual couple but are not for gay couples."
One can gift up to $12,000 a year. Anything over that would be taxed. There's also a lifetime gift limit of $1 million. That means if one partner gives another a lump sum of $1 million in the divorce, they'll have exhausted their lifetime gift exemption.

"The IRS has been asked to give private letter rulings on this, and they've refused," Moore says. "So the question for planners becomes, 'What can we do to avoid this?' "

The more a couple can do up front-while they're still in love-the better, says Debra Neiman, a certified financial planner in Arlington, Mass., and author of Money Without Matrimony. Neiman says she knows documents take the romance out of the relationship, but it can save two people a lot of grief on the back end.

"We do retirement planning, tax planning and estate planning for gay couples, and the divorce rate nationally is 50%, and yet people don't plan for that-even though your chances of getting a divorce is high and it would probably happen a lot sooner than retirement," Neiman says.

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