The legalization of same sex marriage in Minnesota has been a hot topic around the state and on this blog over the past few days.  We’ve talked about the celebration surrounding the passage of the bill, and we’ve looked at a history of gay marriage in the United States.  Today, we’ll explore the legal impacts the bill has on family law issues.

As with any marriage, newlyweds are entitled to numerous spousal-related benefits.  Now that same-sex marriage is legalized in Minnesota (starting August 1), gay couples will have more decisions they’ll need to make with their spouse, including:

A right to inherit

If a person dies without a will, the spouse will automatically inherit the other spouse’s estate.  Also, if one party has a will but they disinherited their spouse or did not give their spouse enough of the estate, the living spouse can pursue their rightful share under Minnesota law.

The right to collect

Because same-sex partners can legally get married, spouses will be eligible to collect each other’s pension or social security benefits.  In the event of a divorce or dissolution, a court may award spousal maintenance to one party.

Getting a prenuptial agreement

Gay couples that will soon become legally married can consider drafting a prenuptial (also known as an antenuptual) agreement.  While gay couples in the past could divide property per a partition action, Minnesota law treats all assets and debts obtained in a marriage as ‘marital.’  All marital assets and debts in a dissolution are dissolved equitably, not equally.