Same sex marriages have been legally recognized in Pennsylvania since May 20, 2014, as a result of a decision of a U.S. District Court Judge. On June 26, 2015, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges established a constitutional right to marriage for same-sex couples. These decisions have had a broad impact on the rights of same-sex couples, including those who were married in other jurisdictions, and those who wanted to be married in Pennsylvania.
Before the recognition of same-sex marriage, same-sex couples who were Pennsylvania residents, but had married in another jurisdiction had an uncertain legal climate both in terms of obtaining a divorce, and dividing property. With the recognition of same-sex marriages, the Divorce Code allows an orderly process for terminating a marriage, providing for equitable distribution of property, and (in appropriate circumstances) for alimony and support.
Although second parent by a same-sex partner has been legal in Pennsylvania since a court decision in 2002, the process was more difficult than that provided for step-parents. The recognition of same-sex marriages allows the same benefits as is the case when an opposite sex step-parent wishes to adopt. The process is easier, and less expensive; among other things, no home study is required.
One of the major benefits provided by Social Security is economic security for a spouse. If one spouse has not worked, or has earned far less than the other, he or she may draw benefits on their spouse’s account, after the spouse has died, retired, or become disabled. Some recipients of SSI may lose some benefits as a result of having their marriages recognized.
Transfers between spouses are exempt from the Real Estate Transfer Tax (2% of value, outside of Philadelphia). For some same-sex couples, before their marriages were recognized, this was a considerable expense, when transferring title to a house purchased by one spouse before the marriage, or when a house purchased during the marriage is transferred as a part of the divorce.
Inheritances between spouses are exempt from inheritance taxes. The Pennsylvania Inheritance Tax on persons who are unrelated is 15%.
Married persons have inheritance rights if a person dies without a will: their spouse will receive all, or a portion of the estate (depending on whether there are any surviving children or parents). A spouse may also receive a share (usually 1/3) when they have been left out of a will.
Whether or not you are married, there are many good reasons to have a will! Do I Need A Will?