Update: The implementation date for the "look back" has been extended from July 1, 2021…
Governor David Patterson has previously directed New York State agencies to recognize same-sex marriages that are legal in the states and countries in which they were performed.
Now, the Governor is pressing New York legislators to make gay marriage legal in New York as well. Mayor Mike Bloomberg, and New York Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirstin Gillibrand, are all in favor of the proposed legislation.
Hopefully, New York will soon follow the trend being set in other states that have legalized gay marriage, such as Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire.
With legalization of same-sex marriage in New York, members of the GLBT community would gain significant financial advantages in circumstances involving debilitating illness and long-term health care options.
For example, if you are married and become ill and in need of long-term care, you can transfer your assets to your spouse and become immediately eligible for Medicaid benefits. Such transfers are exempt, and are not subject to Medicaid’s look back and penalty rules. This makes it possible for cash, investments, real estate and other valuable property to be preserved within the family unit. For GLBT couples confronting serious illness, valid marital status would make it easier to preserve the assets that the couple has saved up over a lifetime.
When the same Elder Law strategies that currently work so effectively for married couples can be utilized on behalf of gay partners, it will unlock the full spectrum of planning for long-term health care.
All that being said, there may still be challenges even if New York votes same-sex marriage into law. There will likely be conflicts with existing Federal law, particularly the Defense of Marriage Act, which does not recognize same-sex unions and may be an obstacle to achieving eligibility for Medicaid benefits. Nevertheless, legalization in this state will move us one step closer to equal rights for GLBT couples.
You can learn more about Elder Law planning approaches for GLBT couples here: Gay and Lesbian Couples – Elder Law Planning.