DOMA’s down, so what happens now?

fedi in 3D

Today, the Supreme Court of the United States declared that the Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”) is unconstitutional as a deprivation of the equal liberty of persons that is protected by the Fifth Amendment.

This means that the federal government must recognize same-sex marriages as valid.

It does not mean that states themselves must allow same-sex marriage.

Estate planning is especially important for same-sex couples. Under Georgia law, if a married person dies without a will, his estate will go to his spouse (or spouse and children, if there are any).  Since Georgia has a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, this isn’t true in the case of a same-sex couple. In addition, one’s partner would not be treated as next of kin for the purposes of medical decision-making and sharing of protected health information under HIPAA, and is not on the priority list for the appointment of a guardian or conservator.  However, with the help of an estate planning attorney same-sex couples can execute documents necessary to overcome these hurdles.

At last, same-sex couples who are legally married in states allowing it can enjoy the tax, financial and other benefits bestowed on married couples by the federal government.  Until this state joins suit, we will continue helping same-sex partners protect themselves to the fullest potential under the law.

Image © Danilo Rizzuti –


About Sarah R. Watchko, Esq.

Sarah R. Watchko is an attorney practicing estate planning and elder law in Atlanta, Georgia


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