Inheritance tax no longer applies to same-sex widow - abc27 WHTM

Inheritance tax no longer applies to same-sex widow

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LEMOYNE, Pa. (WHTM) - When Nancy Nixon's partner of 31 years passed away two years ago, she was slapped with a 15 percent inheritance tax.

So, with her lawyer, Nixon, of South Middleton Township, fought the state and won.

"I was like, 'whoa of course. Let's do it. I could hear Jeanne saying 'yeah go for it!' " said Nixon of her lawyer's suggestion to fight the tax.

That was the same fighting spirit that Nixon and Jeanne Schwartz shared for over three decade, until a battle came along that could not be won.

"She got a disease called Myelitis," said Nixon.

The disease led to organ failure.

Following Schwartz's death in 2012, Nixon found out that she not only lost her partner but a large part of her partner's estate.

"I began to think this is really unfair and that's when I approached her about fighting it," said Lemoyne-based attorney Cindy Villanella.

Villanella explained that the couple had mutual ownership of all assets, but because they were unable to legally marry, the state charged an inheritance tax totaling over $21,000.

"It's not a friend who left items in a will to another friend," said Villanella. "It's nothing like that. They lived as a married couple."

Nixon and her attorney petitioned that a common-law marriage had been in effect since 1981.  That petition was denied and they appealed. Then in May, Pennsylvania's same-sex marriage ban was overturned.

Villanella called the Department of Revenue.

"That's when she made the deal that if we dropped the appeal, they would re-work the inheritance," she said.

Meaning that $21,000 would stay with who it was left to; a woman who still wears her spouse's ring.

"Hopefully the department will see the same thing for other people, to consider us as spouses...equal," Nixon said.  

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