June is a fun month. Not only is it the start of summer, it is the most common month for weddings, a time of many graduations, and a month when we celebrate our fathers. In the legal world, we also celebrate a few more holidays in June. June 12 is Loving day. June 19 is Juneteenth. And the whole month is LGBT Pride month. All of these somewhat lesser-known holidays are celebrations of events that rocked the legal world, and changed estate planning forever.
On June 12, 1967, the United States Supreme Court issued its decision in Loving v. Virginia. The unanimous opinion outlawed all race-based restrictions on marriage in the United States. Over the years, the case has been cited by courts striking down other race-based restrictions, and by the United States Supreme Court in its same-sex marriage opinions.
Thanks to the Loving decision, interracial couples could not only get married without getting arrested, they could benefit from having their relationship officially recognized by the government. Laws governing intestacy, which is a fancy legal word for dying without a will, favor spouses, and after Loving, this included interracial spouses. While we think everyone should make an estate plan, those that do not should be able to rest assured that their partner will inherit their family home and shared assets regardless of their race.
Since the end of the Civil War, June 19 has been the date many people reflect on and celebrate the Emancipation Proclamation. Although President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which declared all of the slaves in Confederate states free, on September 22, 1862, with an effective date of January 1, 1863, news traveled slowly. It wasn’t until June 19, 1965 that the proclamation was read by federal troops to the citizen of Galveston, Texas. A celebration broke out, and Juneteenth is now celebrated by many as the official end of slavery.
It is impossible to recount all of the ways the law changed following the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation, but from an estate planning prospective, it marked the end of treating fellow human beings as assets in estate planning documents. It’s a holiday well-worth celebrating.
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month (LGBT Pride Month) is currently celebrated each year in the month of June. This has been going on for decades in larger cities, but it has more recently become popular all across the country. The spread of Pride awareness and celebration mirrors the legal plight of those discriminated against because of their sexuality — change is slow but it is coming.
Despite changing attitudes and changing laws, we still recommend that same-sex couples craft specialized estate plans instead of relying on the rules of intestacy to distribute their assets at death.