Marriage can change things for you, legally speaking, in several different ways.Our experienced family law attorneys explain some of the most important:
1. Tax Changes
There may be many benefits to changing your tax status and filing as married.These can include tax bracket changes, standard deduction amount changes, and also child tax credits if they apply.There are some couples who choose to file as “married filing separately,” as their specific situation allows the tax benefits to be greater should they file in that manner.
Another tax benefit for spouses is the ability to gift an unlimited amount of money or assets to their spouse without paying taxes on the transfer.The state’s estate tax does kick in, however, in Massachusetts, at $1 million inheritance, so there is a limit on the value of the total gifts over a lifetime before being taxed on them.
3. Retirement Benefits
Upon marriage, the government now recognizes you and your partner as one entity, which changes many things for you in terms of your assets.While married, it is possible that the amounts earned and applied towards your retirement account are now able to be shared between spouses.In some cases, assets acquired prior to your marriage may become shared property as well.
4. Next of Kin
As your spouse is now your next of kin, this changes many of your legal rights and inheritance options.If there is no active will, the majority of all assets will transfer to the surviving spouse.If there is an active will, assets are transferred as determined via the will, regardless of spouse/marriage.Next of kin also means that the spouse is now in charge of making important medical decisions for their spouse, should they not be able to.
5.Health Insurance Benefits
Health insurance is one of the most important insurance benefits and one that spouses can take advantage of as married couples.If one spouse has a better insurance plan, it is almost always an option to add a spouse or children to that plan.Similarly, if it is a single-income household, it is likely of great benefit to now be covered by the spouse rather than to pay out of pocket or obtain a personal insurance policy.
6. Life Insurance
Life insurance benefits change as well, as long as the spouse is now listed as the beneficiary.Making this change to the policy is often overlooked, resulting in another family member benefiting rather than the spouse or, in some cases, the previous spouse.Updating your beneficiary designation ensures that your current spouse will get the financial help they need should you pass away.
7. Social Security Benefits
Social Security spousal benefits may allow one partner to collect up to 50% of the other’s Social Security benefitsfor couples who qualify.Social Security survivor benefits also may be available if one spouse passes away.When one spouse dies, the surviving spouse may be eligible to receive the deceased spouse’s benefit payment when the living spouse retires.Typically, the surviving spouse may collect some benefits at 60 years of age and may receive full benefits once the widow or widower reaches full retirement age.
8. Family Medical Leave
Under the Family Medical Leave Act, “The FMLA entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons with continuation of group health insurance coverage under the same terms and conditions as if the employee had not taken leave.” This means that if your spouse is ill, you may take time off to care for them without losing your job or your health insurance. This is not true for partners who are not legally married.
In Massachusetts, “A man is presumed to be the father of a child and must be joined as a party if he is or has been married to the mother and the child was born during the marriage, or within three hundred days after the marriage was terminated by death, annulment or divorce.” This can help you to avoid complicated paternity issues if you have children.