The Legal Benefits of Marriage

It was less than a year ago that same-sex couples won the right to legally marry nationwide.   Yet marriage overall is on the decline.  According to a Pew Research Center report released in 2014, the number of unmarried adults in the U.S. is at an all-time high.  The report reveals that, as of 2012, fully 20 percent of adults aged 25 and older had never been married.  There are a variety of reasons for this statistic, but one is shifting attitudes among young adults towards the necessity (or desirability) of marriage.  Marriage, however, conveys significant financial and legal benefits over cohabitation, which is one reason same-sex couples fought so hard to be able to choose it.

Tax Benefits

A story from Forbes sheds light on some of the many advantages of marriage, beginning with tax benefits.

  • Thanks to the estate tax marital deduction, when one spouse dies, the other receives his or her estate tax free.
  • Because of the gift tax marital deduction, no taxes are owed on a gift from one spouse to the other (assuming the recipient spouse is a citizen).  Otherwise, the maximum annual amount you can give to someone tax-free is capped at $14,000.  
  • Married couples can file joint tax returns, which in some cases can save money.
  • If one partner in an unmarried couple does not work, that partner cannot contribute to an  IRA to save for retirement, because he or she has no earned income.  In a marriage, however, if one spouse does not work, the nonworking spouse can use the working spouse’s income to qualify for IRA contributions.

Estate Planning and Death Benefits

  • When one spouse dies, the other can receive survivor’s benefits from his or her pension plan.
  • A deceased spouse’s IRA can be rolled over into a surviving spouse’s IRA.
  • A surviving spouse can receive Social Security benefits, and a surviving spouse caring for a minor child may be eligible for an additional benefit.
  • A spouse is able to make burial and other arrangements after death that an unmarried partner might not be able to.
  • If one spouse dies without a will, state law dictates where the estate will go.  A surviving spouse has priority over other surviving family members, for example, parents and siblings.

Other Benefits

  • If one spouse is injured or incapacitated, the other can make medical decisions on his or her behalf, and can visit the hospital. Visitation for non-spouses may be restricted, and parents or siblings may have the right to make decisions over a non-spouse.
  • Health insurance plans for one person plus a spouse are typically cheaper than two separate plans for an unmarried couple.  
  • When a marriage ends, spouses have access to the courts for equitable property division, as well as rights to alimony, child custody and support, and visitation.

Consult a Greenville Family Lawyer

Robert Clark is an experienced family lawyer who has lived his entire life in Greenville.  His practice concentrates on compassionate representation in family court. If you have concerns regarding any family law related matter, contact attorney Robert Clark for a consultation today.

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