A Little Something for Domestic Partners

State Rep. Babette Josephs introduces a new bill that could benefit same-sex couples

Courtesy of the Office of Babette Josephs

State Rep. Babette Josephs (D-Phila.) has introduced a measure this week (H.B. 1828) that would add domestic partners to the list of relatives who are currently exempt from paying state inheritance taxes.

“Currently, anyone in a committed, but unmarried relationship – whether it is with a person of the opposite sex or same sex – is subject to a 15 percent inheritance tax on property bequeathed by his or her partner upon death,” Josephs says. “That inheritance tax could be as much as tens of thousands of dollars for the individual. That only adds to the overall strain facing the surviving partner when that financial burden is added to the already existing emotional trauma caused by the loved one’s passing.”

If passed, the bill would define a domestic partnership as a relationship not defined by marriage or a civil union, but one where two people agree to mutual interdependence and take responsibility for the maintenance and support of the other. Even though gay marriage isn’t legal in the state, this would include same-sex couples.

Couples would just need to prove that they are in a relationship using a lease, loan or mortgage. A few other factors that would be taken into consideration include being a primary beneficiary on the other’s life insurance policy or retirement plan and being included in a will, having power of attorney, joint ownership of a vehicle, joint checking account or other investments, shared health insurance coverage and even co-parenting of children.

And while it isn’t the same as having equal marriage rights, it could be a big step for same-sex couples in the commonwealth.