At approximately 12 a.m. this morning, Minnesota officially became the 12th state to grant legal recognition to same-sex marriages. Specifically, the law signed by Governor Mark Dayton back on May 14 now permits "civil marriages" between any two people regardless of their sexual orientation and clears the way for these same-sex couples to enjoy a host of benefits to which they were previously denied access.
While the majority of the coverage devoted to this historic event was understandably focused on the hundreds of ceremonies performed at midnight and the boon to area businesses, there are some experts who say an equal amount of coverage should perhaps be devoted to urging same-sex couples who may be on the fence about marrying to strongly consider its legal and financial ramifications.
"I've been accused of being a parade-rainer on marriage," said one financial adviser at RBC Wealth Management. "Maybe I just want to know the answer to the question before I would embark into such an agreement that, frankly, comes with a lot of responsibility as well as a tremendous number of rights."
According to experts, all couples considering a walk down the aisle will need to take both tax considerations and estate planning matters into consideration. However, they argue that married same-sex couples may also need to account for unique legal issues that could arise if they cross state lines.
For example, they point out that in neighboring Wisconsin, there is a constitutional amendment that expressly defines marriage as between a man and a woman. Consequently, this could present significant issues for couples who marry in Minnesota and go back to live in Wisconsin, or even for those couples who married and live in Minnesota but encounter difficulties while visiting the state.
"Let's say your honeymoon is in Wisconsin, and something happens, God forbid," said the financial advisor. "And you're in a state where your marriage isn't recognized. Do you still need health-care directives? Do you still need all kinds of legal protection that you needed prior to the recognition of legal marriage, once you step out of the state?"
As far as divorce among same-sex couples in Minnesota is concerned, experts don't envision too many problems given that the same body of law applies, and all parties enjoy the same rights and privileges granted through marriage. However, that's not to say that issues could arise that would need to be addressed by the state courts. For example, what happens if a divorcing couple owns vacation property in Wisconsin?
It should be very interesting to see how things develop. Please visit our website to learn more about your rights and options if you are considering a divorce.
Source: MPR News, "Straight or gay, don't rush to the altar," July 29, 2013