The Supreme Court ruled Friday that same-sex couples have the right to marry nationwide, freeing gay couples from complicated legal and financial planning.

“Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right,” the 5-4 Obergefell v. Hodges decision read.

Before the opinion came down, 37 states and Washington, D.C. recognized gay marriage, according to the Human Rights Campaign, a nonprofit group that works for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights. That meant in some states the laws treated same-sex couples as unrelated, forcing partners to go through more legal hoops and paperwork to handle shared property, taxes, estates and more, compared with heterosexual couples.

“For a lot of these couples that have been together for 30 years, they never thought marriage was something they could entertain,” says Tim Bresnahan, head of the national LGBT and nontraditional families practice for Northern Trust, a Chicago-based wealth management firm. “This marriage ruling is a historic decision, and a historic ruling, and a really great opportunity for couples to sit down with their planning team.”

Some couples might already share assets but decide they’re not ready for marriage. And others may find marriage would lead to increased tax burdens and rule it out as well. But in both scenarios, Bresnahan says, same-sex couples would be better off reviewing standing paperwork and long-term goals with an adviser to determine how to best handle their finances.

“If you’ve got cohabitation agreements and partner agreements and complex techniques to move assets around for accounting purposes, maybe there is an opportunity to simplify,” he says.

Here’s his checklist for same-sex couples:

  1. Understand the tax impact of marriageThis will depend on each partner’s income levels. Marriage has the potential to lower or raise your taxes, based on your salaries.
  2. Complete estate documentsCreate a will, power of attorney for health care and durable power of attorney for property, should one person become incapacitated.
  3. Review your existing wealth transfer and estate plans.Do they still make sense now that gay marriage is legal on a federal scale? Are there documents you no longer need or can streamline?
  4. Consider creating a trustThat may be an easier way to pass assets along to another person.
  5. Consider giftingYou may now give unlimited assets to your same-sex spouse without forking over a federal tax, both now and when you die.
  6. Know when asset-titling doesn’t helpWhen a married couple titles a high-value asset, like a home, it makes sense because there are no federal transfer tax consequences. When unmarried couples do this, they end up paying the associated tax twice.
  7. Review your retirement and life insurance beneficiaries.Even if you state otherwise in your will or trust, the person named as the beneficiary on your life insurance policy and retirement accounts will get your 401(k), pension or IRA.
  8. Consider a corporate fiduciary.If your plans are complex, you may want to put your assets in the hands of a trusted adviser who, under the so-called fiduciary rule, is obligated to put your financial interests first.

Source: MarketWatch