Financial advice for same-sex couples

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Almost half a million Australians identify as gay or bisexual, many of whom are in long-term relationships. Although same-sex marriage hasn’t been legislated in Australia, changes to tax, superannuation, social security and family laws in recent years – such as the inclusion of same-sex partners in the definition of ‘spouse’ – mean same-sex couples either in a de facto or registered relationship have almost all the same legal rights as heterosexual couples. 

The United States might have legalised same-sex marriage, but when it comes to tax and estate planning there are different rules in every US state. In Australia, these rules are more similar across the states. So what do same-sex couples need to consider when it comes to tax and estate planning in Australia?

Putting savings strategies in place

The 2013 Census found that people in same-sex relationships were generally better educated, had higher incomes, and were less likely to have children living with them than heterosexual couples.

Of course, not every same-sex couple will be the same, and regardless of a person’s situation, there is a need for good advice when it comes to managing their money.

Death benefit nominations are important as they can give you control over who receives your superannuation death benefits.

Making the most of tax and super benefits 

The  laws recognising same-sex relationships mean that a number of tax benefits are now potentially available to same-sex couples, including:

• the ability to claim a tax offset for superannuation contributions made for a low income earning spouse

• the ability to transfer unused Seniors and Pensioners Tax Offset to a partner

• benefits for Medicare levy calculations if one partner is a low-income earner.

If a relationship breaks down, tax relief for some capital gains arising from the transfer of assets is also available for same-sex couples.

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Same-sex de facto couples receive the same superannuation concessions as married or de facto heterosexual couples, including the ability to split certain superannuation contribution to a spouse or make after-tax contributions directly to a spouse’s superannuation fund.

In the event a member of a same-sex couple passes away, their superannuation benefits can be paid directly to their spouse as a lump sum or a death benefit pension (depending on the rules of their fund). Concessional tax treatment applies to superannuation death benefits paid to a spouse, regardless of whether they are the same or opposite sex.

Many superannuation funds allow members to nominate one or more of their dependents, which includes a same-sex spouse, to receive their superannuation benefits on death. Death benefit nominations are important as they can give you control over who receives your superannuation death benefits. You should check with your fund regarding the types of nominations available. 

Planning for parents 

With legal issues around parenthood, estate planning might be the most complex part of financial planning for same-sex couples with children. Children of same-sex parents can only be the biological child of one parent and if that parent dies, the child may no longer be considered a child of the surviving parent. In that situation, custody of the child could be given to the deceased partner’s family, so it’s important that the other parent is legally named as the child’s guardian.

Similarly, couples should designate new caretakers and draw up an estate plan for their child in the event that they both were to die. It's even more important to ensure guardianship, wills and powers of attorney are all up to date.

Every family is different, and each couple will have their own needs and goals. And it’s just as important for same-sex couples to seek professional advice when they're planning ahead for their future.

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Macquarie Bank Limited ABN 46 008 583 542 AFSL & Australian Credit Licence 237502 (MBL). This information does not take into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. Before making any financial investment decision or a decision about whether to acquire any product mentioned on this page, a person should obtain and review the terms and conditions relating to that product and also seek independent financial, legal and taxation advice.