A Step Toward Equality in Estate Planning
On May 11, 2011, Governor Jack Markell signed into law the Civil Union and Equality Act of 2011 (the “Act”). When this landmark legislation becomes effective on January 1, 2012, same-sex couples who either enter into civil unions in Delaware, or who were married or entered into civil unions or domestic partnerships granting marriage equivalent rights in other jurisdictions, will be entitled to all the same rights, benefits and protections, and will be subject to the same responsibilities and obligations, as married spouses under Delaware law. From an asset protection and estate planning perspective, the Act will significantly alter the landscape for same-sex couples in Delaware, and will make Delaware an even more attractive asset protection and estate planning option for same-sex couples from other jurisdictions who wish to take advantage of Delaware law for planning opportunities that may not be available in other jurisdictions. The state level relationship recognition provided by the Act ensures that Delaware is the preeminent jurisdictional choice in the United States for asset protection and estate planning opportunities for same-sex couples.