Same-Sex Spouses on Death Certificates

A recent case in Florida illustrates why same-sex couples should not rely solely on marriage rights and the laws of intestate succession for estate planning purposes.

The Supreme Court might have legalized same-sex marriage throughout the country, but advocates and observers know that it has not eliminated the need to fight to exercise those rights in some places.

One of the latest examples comes from Florida.

In this case, two men had lived together in Florida for 42 years. They were legally married in New York in 2012.  A year later, one of them passed away in Florida.

Since Florida did not recognize same-sex marriage, the death certificate listed the deceased man as single. After the Supreme Court's decision the surviving spouse requested that the death certificate be reissued to list the deceased as married at the time of death as Slate reports in "Federal Judge Rules Florida Must Add Same-Sex Spouses to Death Certificates."

The state of Florida refused to reissue the death certificate without a specific court order to do so for each death certificate. A federal judge has ruled against the state and ordered that it must reissue all death certificates to list same-sex spouses for couples who were legally married before the Supreme Court's decision.

While this case turned out well for those affected, it illustrates that same-sex couples cannot necessarily rely on proper enforcement of their marriage rights. It is still advisable to have estate plans to protect same-sex spouses.  This can help make sure that some states do not throw up roadblocks to inheritances.

Reference: Slate (March 24, 2017) "Federal Judge Rules Florida Must Add Same-Sex Spouses to Death Certificates."


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