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July 1, 2013

Federal Defense of Marriage Act Ruled Unconstitutional


On June 26, 2013, the US Supreme Court ruled Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional. United States v. Windsor. Section 3 of DOMA provided that in order for a couple to be considered married, the spouses must be of the opposite sex. As a result, same sex couples were not eligible for many of the federal tax benefits available to married couples of the opposite sex, even if the marriage was legal under state law. Now that Section 3 of DOMA has been ruled unconstitutional, same sex couples are now eligible for marital benefits, providing they are legally married under state law.

As of now, it is unclear how this change will affect retirement benefits. We anticipate that the issues affected would include the following:

  • The availability of the spousal beneficiary options, including the surviving spouse’s option to treat an inherited IRA as his/her ‘own’,
  • Spousal IRA contribution fallibility,
  • Spousal consent requirement for naming a nonspouse as a primary beneficiary, and
  • The spousal consent requirement for distributions and loans from qualified plans.

We will continue to track updates and keep you posted

Written By

Denise Appleby

Denise is CEO of Appleby Retirement Consulting Inc., a firm that provides IRA resources for financial/ tax/legal professionals. She has over 20 years of experience in the retirement plans field, which includes training and technical consultation.

Denise writes and publishes educational /marketing tools for advisors; available at Denise co-authored several books on IRAs

Denise is a graduate of The John Marshall Law School, where she obtained a Masters of Jurisprudence in Employee Benefits, and has earned 5 professional retirement designations.
She has appeared on numerous media programs, sharing her insights on retirement tax laws.


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