The Florida Estate Planning and Probate Law Blog is focused on recent federal and state case law and planning ideas.


A recent New Jersey Tax Court ruling, unpublished opinion, emphasizes the importance for same-sex couples to not put-off marriage for estate planning purposes. New Jersey has both an estate tax and an inheritance tax, and taxpayers must pay the higher of the two taxes. The estate tax impacts estates of more than $675,000. Notwithstanding a 31-year relationship, registration as a same-sex domestic partner under New Jersey's Domestic Partnership Act (DPA), and a marriage scheduled to take place with 6 days of his death, the New Jersey Tax Court Judge ruled that the survivor did not qualify as a surviving partner for estate tax purposes under New Jersey law.  As a result of his failure to qualify as a surviving spouse he was not entitled to a $101,041 estate tax deduction under New Jersey tax law.

The Judge, in applying a “very strict reading of the statute,” reached this conclusion based upon the fact that the couple were eligible to enter into either a civil union or a marriage as of the date of the decedent's death and did neither. In 2007, New Jersey had enacted the Civil Union Act which allowed same-sex partners, who entered into a civil union, to be treated the same as opposite-sex spouses for purposes of calculating the New Jersey estate tax. Subsequently, in October 2013, the New Jersey Supreme Court, in Garden State Equality v. Dow, permitted same-sex couples to marry. The New Jersey's statute on domestic partnership is “unequivocal” in providing exemptions only for personal income and inheritance taxes and not the estate tax.