Financial + Legal Planning for Unmarried Couples: Should You Legally Marry or Not?

By Laura Croft, Esq.

Sep 15
should I get married

While the Supreme Court issued a landmark decision to legalize same-sex marriage in the U.S. making it possible for people of all sexual orientations to marry, many modern couples (of all genders and sexual orientation) still choose against marriage. If you're wondering, "should I legally marry or not?," read on.

If you are in the inquiry around whether to legally get married, be sure to consider these important factors:

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If you are partnered and unmarried, you need financial and legal protections in place, to ensure you and your loved ones are taken care of if you become incapacitated or when you die.

While legally married partners need many of the same financial and legal protections in place, the law does provide some defaults that will provide protection and access to a “legal” spouse that are not given to an unmarried partner.

Imagine this: your partner is hospitalized and you can’t get access because you aren’t married. Or your partner needs a family member to make important legal or financial decisions, but it can’t be you because you aren’t considered a relative without marriage. If you decide you don’t want to get married, do call us to get you the legal documentation you’ll need to validate and protect your rights.

For legally married partners there are default legal provisions providing for a spouse in the event that their spouse dies without a Will in place. While these legal provisions are generally not sufficient or do not match what you would want, at least there is something in place for your spouse. As an unmarried partner though, you would have no legal right to anything belonging to your significant other.

Imagine this: you and your partner live together, but your partner is on the lease or the owner of the home and your partner becomes incapacitated or dies. You could lose your housing while also grieving your partner’s illness or death. Legal documentation can fix this.

When you are considering marriage, remember that legal spouses can file taxes jointly, whereas unmarried couples cannot. And there can be some serious tax savings and benefits that could make marriage quite attractive. Conversely, getting married could negatively impact your tax situation.

Here’s the bottom line: if you are committed to your partner, and want your partner to make legal and financial decisions for you and to have access to some or all of your assets in the event of your incapacity or at the time of your death, whether you get married or not, you need legal and financial planning that ensures your partner has easy access to everything you choose.

Whether you choose to get married in the eyes of the state, legally, or just in front of your friends, family and community, contact us as you decide what to do so we can support you to plan well. That’s what we do for you and your family.

If you’re ready to ensure your loved ones have the legal benefits and financial protections they deserve, consider sitting down with us. As your Personal Family Lawyer®, we can help you with your legal planning needs. Our Family Wealth Planning Session guides you to protect and preserve what matters most.  Before the session, we’ll send you a Family Wealth Inventory and Assessment to complete that will get you more financially organized than you’ve ever. Schedule online.

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About the Author

I have five children, two of my children have special needs and one is my step-daughter. On a deep level, I understand how every family has special gifts, dreams, fears and goals and I am deeply committed to be your trusted advisor who helps you make the very best personal, financial, and legal decisions for your family throughout your lifetime.