Good Life

Money Matters: State recognizes same-sex marriage for matters relating to tax, joint accounts

Q: Are same-sex marriages recognized by the commonwealth of Pennsylvania for purposes of inheritance tax and realty transfer tax?

A: Yes. A same-sex marriage creates a marriage relationship in which the transfer of assets from one person to the other does not incur any inheritance tax, and as far as realty transfer taxes are concerned, the same rule would apply.

Q: Are jointly owned accounts held by same-sex marriages treated the same as male husband and a female wife marriages?

A: Yes. The Department of Revenue has stated that same sex marriages which own joint accounts are the equivalent of and will be treated the same as separate-sex marriages.

Q: Are private annuities taxable in Pennsylvania for inheritance taxes?

A: Yes. Private annuities are taxable for inheritance tax. Sometimes people confuse annuities with life insurance, and the two are not the same. Life insurance when it is paid out by an insurance company is not taxable for inheritance tax. However, annuities are taxable.

Q: Should I worry about federal estate taxes at the time of my death?

A: No. The federal estate tax is applicable only for estates with a value of more than $5.4 million per person. The federal estate tax applies to about 1 percent of the individuals in the United States. Most of us can forget about the federal estate tax.

Q: Should I worry about the Pennsylvania inheritance tax at the time of death?

A: Yes. The Pennsylvania inheritance tax applies to all assets owned by an individual above dollar one. Pennsylvania taxes everything except life insurance proceeds and certain retirement benefits. However, there is no tax on a transfer between husband and wife and the tax between parent and child is 4.5 percent.

Q: How can I dispose of my body for free at the time of my death?

A: Give your body to the Humanities Gift Registry, which is the organization in Pennsylvania that accepts bodies for medical research in medical and dental schools. There is no cost.

Q: Should I make burial arrangements before I die?

A: Yes. It is easier for you to make your own arrangements than for your family after your death. Also, you may choose the cost of the funeral service that you want. While you’re at it, write your own obituary.

Q: May my executor drive my car after my death?

A: Yes, but it needs to be insured. Your executor is your legal representative and has the right to possess and use your assets for the benefit of your estate.

Q: May my executor sell my household goods and home at auction after my death?

A: Yes, unless you specifically state otherwise in your will, or unless you are specifically giving certain items to specific individuals.