To Marry or Not To Marry
Every decision revolves around economic benefits, though there are exceptions such as love or charity. If you are thinking about marriage, first decide whether you benefit from it or not:
· Raising kids is the fundamental reason for a marriage. In most cases, if you have children or hope to raise a family, getting married is probably the right choice. Both partners in a married couple have the same rights and responsibilities to raise and support children of the relationship, and in a divorce, both can seek visitation and custody. If one parent dies, the other one steps right in as the primary legal parent. It's pretty difficult to make these sorts of arrangements absent a legal marriage or a second parent or stepparent adoption.
· Facing a serious illness, for example, (unless it disqualifies you for Medicaid, usually couples get divorce for this reason) favors a marriage, whereas getting saddled with your partner's debts or losing Social Security benefits probably favors a no vote.
· A legal marriage is a reliable method of providing a foreigner with the privileges of immigration to this country even if the person does qualify under work or other provisions of the Immigration Act, because the spousal immigration has unlimited number of visas per year. Marriages of convenience, or green card marriages may seem like a good way for an alien to obtain legal citizenship quickly. It should be noted that punishable marriage fraud occurs when a marriage is entered into for the sole purpose of obtaining U.S. immigration benefits or citizenship.
Review the marital property rules for your state, evaluate the benefits and burdens of being married. For an unmarried couple, automatic inheritance is not possible, but a will and joint ownership provides that benefit. Even married couples are advised to have a will and trust prepared.
Whether you file tax returns separate or married, in general, Uncle Sam will get his fair share equally either way. Child credits are given for single parents also.
Most estates don't owe federal estate or gift tax, because you can give away or leave substantial amounts of property tax-free. Under current law, you can leave or give away up to $5.25 million, total, before you need to pay tax. So, this is not a good reason to marry, unless you hope to inherit more than 5.25 million and do not want to pay tax.
Consider emotional need to be bound by marriage forever, even if the economics make no sense. Beware of the fact that 50% of marriages in the US are destined for divorce. If the overall marriage assessment is negative for you, and if living as unmarried couple has its own advantages and is positive in the above assessment; you should hold off. Otherwise, proceed to marriage gingerly, but consider creating a prenuptial agreement if any aspect of the traditional marriage structure doesn't meet your needs.
A weekly guide with tips and legal advice for each stage of the process.