ESTATE PLANNING FOR REGISTERED DOMESTIC PARTNERS: NAVIGATING THE STATE AND FEDERAL CONFLICT
By Steven M. Goldberg* and Naomi E. Metz**
Estate planning for same-gender couples generally aims to achieve the same goals as estate planning for heterosexual couples. Conflicts between California and federal law, however, make achieving these goals more challenging for same-gender couples. California law gives same-gender couples the right to be registered domestic partners (RDPs), with essentially the same rights and responsibilities as married couples. This status is not, however, recognized as a marriage for federal income tax or estate tax purposes. As a result, estate planning for same-gender couples will often be more complex and difficult than for heterosexual couples. Estate planners need to provide options to their RDP clients to cope with the conflicting laws, while pursuing the traditional goals of legacy planning, asset protection, and tax minimization.
II. THE CONFLICT BETWEEN CALIFORNIA AND FEDERAL LAW