However, same-sex marriage is still not legal in the state of Utah, and there are many couples who travel out-of-state to get married and return as "legal strangers." James L. Druffner and Robbie Crook of Lotus Financial Services in Park City are working with Nathan Garcia from Haymond Law to address the legal and financial aspects of these same-sex marriages in Utah.
They are hosting a roundtable at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 23, at Ahh Sushi, located in the Quarry Junction at 8178 Gorgonza Pines Rd. to discuss these issues.
"I hope to be able to help clarify some questions and concerns that couples have in regards to how the decisions have really affected their rights and their ability to make decisions long-term as a couple and a family," Garcia said.
Most of those questions, he said, stem from same-sex couples being unsure about their rights and benefits in a state that still does not recognize their marriage.
Now that DOMA has been deemed unconstitutional, same-sex married couples receive the same federal rights and benefits as opposite-sex married couples. These rights include the ability to file joint federal tax returns, inheriting a share of the spouse's estate, receiving social security, Medicare and disability benefits for spouses and visiting your spouse in an intensive care unit or during restricted visiting hours of a hospital, according to the Nolo official website.
The big question same-sex married couples living in Utah have is whether or not they will have to file both jointly and separately when it comes to tax returns, Garcia said. They are able to file a joint income federal tax return, but since the state of Utah does not recognize same-sex marriage, they may also have to file separately as "single" for a state income tax return purposes.
"The state of Utah hasn't exactly said what they are going to do about taxes, and that could create a situation this next tax season," Garcia said. "It is going to create quite a headache for accountants and [certified public accountants]."
Druffner is a certified financial planner and certified public accountant and Crook is a financial planner and estate planner. They agree that estate and financial planning are essential, not only for married same-sex couples but unmarried same-sex couples, opposite-sex couples and straight, single people.
"There's a saying that goes, 'The best time was 20 years ago; the second best time is now,'" Druffner said. "The farther ahead you plan, the better."
Crook said that if something unfortunate should happen, like one of the same-sex married spouses dies, the state will come in and manage the estate and most likely hand it to family instead of the spouse.
"It is best to build the same legal rights in a trust document, so that the passing of the trust and inheritance can go to your spouse," Crook said. "And it is important to have a durable Power of Attorney for healthcare."
Druffner said that ignorance can be dangerous when it comes to legal, financial and estate matters, and if people do not plan now, they might not have time to plan later. The tax ramifications can be substantial, he said, and the roundtable will hopefully be an outlet for a discussion about "complex laws."
"A lot of questions are out there, and we might not have an answer for every single one but we can point them in the right direction," Garcia said. "Sometimes the answers are not known yet, but those who attend can have comfort knowing it is something to come and look forward to."
For more information or to RSVP, contact James L. Druffner at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 649-4592 no later than Monday, Oct. 21.