New York state took a big and long-awaited step when it became the sixth and largest state in the country to legalize same-sex marriages, but for financial advisors like Anna Pfaehler, a CFP and advisor at Palisades Hudson Financial Group in Scarsdale, N.Y., the work has just begun.
“As financial planners, it’s part of our job to stay on top of changing laws and to know how these laws are going to affect our clients’ financial planning,” Pfaehler says.
To this end, Pfaehler has taken a proactive approach toward making sure that Palisades Hudson Financial comes up to the mark with respect to serving same-sex married clients. As yet, the firm doesn’t have too many same-sex couples on its roster of clients, she says, but “this is definitely an area in which we want to do more business, and as long as same-sex marriage is not recognized at the federal level and states differ in their policies, we feel there’s a big need for financial planners.”
While more than a dozen states do give rights to same-sex couples, those rights aren’t uniform, so couples need special financial planning, especially if they have children, Pfaehler says. And different same-sex couples face different challenges: Those who are married or in a civil union may, or may not, live in a state that recognizes their status, she says, while couples who aren’t in a legally sanctioned relationship have no special rights at all.
It is up to advisors, Pfaehler says, to work their way through the myriad differences and figure out the laws with respect to estate planning, taxation, children and even divorce for a clientele that is only likely to increase going forward.
“Same-sex marriage couples are looking for financial planners that have done their homework and who know the laws and the special situations they are in,” she says. “Same-sex marriage couples understand that they face more hurdles in their financial planning and they are looking for advisors who know that and can help them figure out what to do.”