The Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Obergefell v. Hodges on June 26, 2015 legalized same-sex marriage. It is a welcome decision for many Americans. We at Batch, Poore and Williams, PC extend our deepest congratulations to same-sex couples everywhere and celebrate this monumental moment with you. While North Carolina has recognized same-sex marriage since October 2014, many people may still be unaware of the changes this means. We’d also like to explain some of the legal changes for same-sex couples.
Now that same-sex couples have the right to marry, they also have the right to divorce, inherit by intestate if their spouse does not have a will, file joint tax returns, and enjoy all of the numerous other rights given to married couples. In North Carolina, a few ways same-sex couples are affected include:
Owning a Home
Once married, if you and your spouse buy a house or other real property, you will take title as “tenants by the entirety.” This means that the two of you will own the property as a single legal entity and you will each be entitled to the other spouse’s share of the property if the other dies. It also means that, generally, creditors of one spouse will not be able to attach a lien to the property. Generally, only creditors owning a debt that is in both of your names will be able to attach a lien to the property.
We recommend having a will in place but, if you do not, your spouse will be able to inherit under North Carolina intestate succession laws. Receiving assets under these laws can be a headache though and not all assets are governed by them. Assets like life insurance policies and retirement accounts will pass to the surviving co-owner or to the person named as a beneficiary of the asset. Be sure to keep the beneficiaries of these assets and others like them up-to-date. It’s important to make a plan for all of your assets to ease your spouse’s burden in the eventuality of your passing. An attorney can help you create the plan by drafting a will for you. You can then put the will away for safe keeping and forget about it. You’ll then have peace of mind knowing you don’t have to worry about whether your spouse and/or children will be provided for or not.
The unfortunate reality is that, sometimes, marriages do not continue indefinitely. As a same-sex couple, you and your spouse are now entitled to the same separation rights given to heterosexual couples. This includes the possibility of receiving post separation support and alimony as well as the division of marital assets and debts. In North Carolina, generally, a dependent spouse, a spouse dependent upon the other for financial support, is entitled to post-separation support and alimony. When looking at dividing the marital property, North Carolina presumes that a 50/50 split of the marital assets and debts is equitable. Both of these areas of the law are complicated. You should speak to one of the experienced attorneys at Batch, Poore and Williams, PC for more information.
Speak to one of our knowledgeable attorneys to find out more about your legal rights.