2013 Employer Checklist for Benefits Planning: Post Windsor and Latest Health Reforms


The following is a short checklist of issues that Massachusetts and other employers need to address as the laws relating to retirement, medical and other employee benefits have changed. The details regarding the application of the U.S. Supreme Court decision invalidating the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in states that recognize same-sex marriage will not be entirely clear until IRS issues regulations. However, employers with employees in states that recognize same-sex marriage (such as Massachusetts) should now be taking the steps, discussed in A, below. Employers dealing with federal and Massachusetts health reforms should be alert to the issues listed in B, below.

A. Planning for DOMA Repeal in Benefit Plans -

Retirement Plans: The U.S. Supreme Court held in U.S. v. Windsor that the definition of marriage under DOMA is unconstitutional for federal tax purposes in states which recognize same-sex marriage. This holding affects many retirement plans, and, for Massachusetts employers and other states recognizing same-sex marriage, plan amendments are necessary. For example, after Windsor, spousal benefits will be guaranteed to surviving spouses in recognized same-sex marriages; minimum distributions may have to be recalculated in some cases; qualified domestic relations orders from divorce courts (QDROs) have a new application to same-sex spouses in some circumstances; and certain distributions require spousal consent for recognized marriages of same-sex couples.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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