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Old language could cast shadows over same-sex marriages

As much as we might think language is static the truth is it is very dynamic. You might occasionally hear the word "hark" used today, but probably only if you're watching a Shakespeare play. Parcel used to mean partly. Now it pretty much only refers to a package.

Terms, especially those used in legal circles, have a way of sticking around for a lot longer than might be useful and meaningful. Experienced Minnesota family law attorneys know that in a world that is changing as fast as ours is this can create some real family law problems.

While same-sex marriage has been legal in Minnesota for several years, it was only last year that the U.S. Supreme Court made it legal nationwide. That decision did make some matters clearer, but it didn't offer any guidance on how to deal with family legacy trusts -- some of which may well contain gender specific language.

For example, imagine a situation in which a grandparent created a trust for a grandson when he was born in 1965. The grandparent's will stipulates that in the event the child reaches adulthood and marries, the assets of the trust transfer to his "wife." If that child dies leaving behind a husband, does the trust transfer? What if siblings of the man decide to challenge any transfer on the basis of the language in the estate plan?

The answer to the questions is going to depend on the laws of the state. While logic might dictate that the assets ought to pass to the husband, it might not be that easy. If the state's rules for interpreting documents using outdated language haven't caught up with today's norms, such questions may need to be sorted out on a case by case basis.

The lesson in this is that it's dangerous to assume anything. Legal questions surface all the time and getting reliable answers starts with consulting skilled legal counsel

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