DOMA and the POA

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On June 26, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision declared the Defense of Marriage Act’s (DOMA) definition of marriage unconstitutional.  DOMA, a federal law, defined marriage as between one man and one woman.  Also, in a separate decision, the Supreme Court avoided a broad ruling on the constitutionality of state same-sex marriage bans effectively leaving the legal status of same-sex marriage in the hands of the state.  Thirteen states and the District of Columbia currently legally recognize same-sex marriages.  Pennsylvania is not one of them. 

These decisions will give rise to some new estate planning options for federal tax purposes for same-sex married couples.  However, one area of estate planning that remains unchanged regardless of marital status or sexual preference is in the area of the Powers of Attorney (POA).  A POA is a document that allows you to appoint an agent to make significant financial and health related decisions on your behalf during your lifetime.  Being single or married and regardless of whom you are married to will have no bearing on the validity of your POA nor restrict who you can appoint as your agent, provided the person is competent.  

Everyone over the age of 18 may create a POA and name whomever he/she wants to name as his/her agent and no intrusive restrictions apply.  Reager & Adler recommends that if you do not currently have a POA and you are over the age of 18, you should get one.  College students home for the summer or students college-bound this fall should seriously consider putting a POA in place.    

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Harrisburg Magazine Readers' Choice 2011