Beginning May 1, 2013, pursuant to the Colorado Civil Unions Act, Colorado will begin legally recognizing civil unions. In a strictly estate planning context, such recognition of civil unions provides those parties to a civil union with rights and protections that were traditionally vested in spouses, including:
The ability to inherit real and personal property via the laws of intestacy (which will apply in the event a deceased partner did not leave a will)
Priority for appointment as a personal representative, guardian or conservator for a partner
Rights relating to declarations concerning the administration, withholding, or withdrawing of medical treatment
Rights concerning the disposition of a partner’s remains.
Notwithstanding Colorado’s new civil unions law, please note that such civil unions are not recognized for federal tax purposes, notwithstanding the Internal Revenue Service’s recent announcement that all legally married same-sex couples will be recognized for federal tax purposes regardless of whether the state where they live recognizes the marriage.
Thus a same-sex couple legally married in Minnesota and residing in Colorado will be treated as married for federal tax purposes. Such recognition will apply to all taxes imposed under the Internal Revenue Code and can result in significant tax savings (and additional estate planning opportunities), as transfers to spouses are not subject to estate and gift taxes. As noted above, a same-sex couple who has only received a Colorado civil unions license will not be able to receive such tax savings.