The Colorado Civil Union Act, C.R.S. 14-15-101, became effective on May 1, 2013 making it the only remaining state that allows civil unions. Other states that previously recognized those partnerships have adopted same sex marriage laws and converted civil unions, with the exception of Vermont, into marriages as a matter of law. Vermont enacted its same sex marriage law in 2009. All civil unions entered into before that date are still recognized as civil unions.
Note that New Hampshire enacted its same sex marriage law on January 1, 2010. All legal civil unions contracted in another state or jurisdiction have been recognized as marriages in New Hampshire since that date. N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. Section 457:45.
According to law, same sex couples entering into a civil union obtain the same benefits, protections and responsibilities that are afforded opposite sex married couples. Rights related to real estate include the following:
1. The right to buy, own and sell real estate as a single entity.
2. The right to survivorship of the real estate and property. When one partner dies, the surviving partner will inherit according to the state laws of intestate success if there is no will or other estate planning in place at the time of death.
3. Homestead rights of a spouse. Homestead exemptions protect an amount of equity in the home from creditors and allow the property to be transferred directly to the surviving spouse upon the other’s death. That amount is set by state law. In Colorado, the amount is $60,000 of the home’s equity, or $90,000 if the surviving partner is disabled or 60 years of age or older. In Vermont, the amount is $125,000.
Colorado does not allow partners in a civil union to file joint taxes. Each must file individually and only one of them can take any deductions related to the real estate that they own together. Vermont allows partners in the civil union to file jointly for state tax purposes. Since federal law only recognizes marriages, couples in civil unions cannot file joint federal returns.
If you are in a civil union and are considering purchasing a home together, it would be wise to consult with an LGBT real estate agent at GayRealEstate.com or attorney. Those professionals have the knowledge to advise you on any laws that can affect your purchase.