Absent a prenuptial agreement modifying this default, your spouse could be entitled to alimony. Also, s/he could allege that s/he is due half of everything earned in the marriage. This includes enhanced value of property and accounts owned pre-marriage. Prenuptial agreements done by attorneys who are experienced in this area are enforceable but some prefer not to go there and simply remain unmarried.
Absent a will or trust modifying this default, your spouse inherits your assets which are in your name alone at your death. If you have a will providing for, let’s say your children, your spouse still has an elective share by law which means s/he can choose to take up to a third of the estate, regardless of your stated intentions. That elective share can be addressed and/or waived in a prenuptial agreement as well.
If you decide to marry, even if you are not big earners (and perhaps especially if you are not) you could end up getting hit with a bigger tax bill from the IRS because of what is known as the marriage penalty. The marriage penalty usually is triggered when there are similar incomes for both spouses. A taxpayer's spouse cannot be a dependent of the taxpayer and for some couples that's a better benefit than filing jointly. Talk to your tax advisor if your partner doesn’t work and see if s/he is eligible to be taken as a dependent – that may be more tax advantageous than marriage.
This credit is substantial and a nice way to offset the costs not only of adopting a child unrelated to you or your partner, but also for doing a second parent adoption. A second parent adoption is when you adopt the child who legally belongs to your partner by birth or adoption. However, you don’t get to take the adoption tax credit if you’re married to your partner because then it is considered a stepparent adoption and there is no credit for stepparent adoptions. Some parents choose to first handle a legal second parent adoption and then marry afterwards to maximize the tax benefits.
Married individuals generally receive less together than they did as unmarried individuals, under the theory that two can live more cheaply under one roof than one. So if you’re on a benefits program that determines your subsidy by looking at what resources you have available, you need to be aware of the so-called marriage penalty. No one is suggesting gaming the system or cheating the government here. Rather, be aware of the consequences of marrying and plan your budget accordingly. For example, couples who are both receiving SSI, a form of government assistance for disabled and elderly individuals, will receive roughly one-quarter less as a married couple than they would receive as two individuals living together. And couples where one is receiving SSI and the other is not will, upon marriage, face a review of the assets and income of the spouse not receiving SSI to be sure that any resources that could support the household are being used to do so that could reduce the benefits to which the eligible spouse is entitled.
Medicaid is a state-run program that provides health and long-term-care insurance coverage for low-income people. Getting married might impact that benefit because eligibility is based on household income and assets. Look at whether marriage will disqualify you for if you’re relying on continued receipt of Medicaid.
Medicare is a health insurance benefit usually reserved for people over 65 years old or with certain disabilities. The premiums paid for coverage are determined by several factors including work history, income and resources. Getting married impacts the premiums because another person’s income and resources are included in the calculations and lesser assistance might be available as a result.
If you or your partner were previously married and are receiving alimony which terminates upon a subsequent marriage, look into whether it is legally significant and worthwhile to refrain from remarriage. Note, however, that Florida has restrictions against retaining your spousal support at its current level if you are cohabitating in a "supportive relationship," as that is deemed unfair to the spouse who is paying your alimony. Also, if you were married to someone for over 10 years, and you currently collect social security on a former spouse, you forfeit that if you marry your partner before age 60, which may serve as an incentive to delay or forgo marriage if you’re close to that age.
There are other various ways that having another income in your "family" can create unintended negative consequences. For example, the subsidies known as Advance Premium Tax Credits that bring down your premiums for insurance on the marketplace exchange are lesser if your household income is higher. Similarly, your payments on student loans might be higher because of the increased household income which must be disclosed.
No list about potential reasons to stay unmarried would be complete without a mention that there are those who are politically, philosophically opposed to marriage on its face. Whether because it has historically been a patriarchal, exclusive and oppressive institution, or out of a desire to have less government involvement in our lives and relationships, it’s important to note that not everyone is gung-ho on marriage and that’s okay too!
Opting in to marriage means entering into a contract with the state, where legislators stay busy creating laws that govern your marriage and marital rights in the event of death or divorce. If you don’t want to automatically "opt in" to the all-inclusive approach to marital rights, but you and your partner have decided that an a la carte approach to the rights and responsibilities attendant to your committed relationship works for you, you may wish to schedule a meeting to discuss your situation and how our firm can assist you, call the office at 305.674.9222 or email to arrange a consultation with Elizabeth Schwartz.