These Are the Legal Benefits of Marriage
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average age of marriage in 2017 was 29.5 for men and 27.4 for women. By comparison, the respective average ages were 26.8 and 25.1 in 2000. Various factors have contributed to the "late marriage" trend, including a larger focus on career and an increase in pre-marriage cohabitation. Although marriage rates have fallen over the years, the legal benefits of tying the knot have remained the same-and some couples may benefit from getting married sooner rather than later. Here, two layers break it all down.
One major benefit of marriage: wedded couples filing taxes jointly may get a deduction. According to Amanda B. Shaffer, Esq., counsel at The Shapiro Law Firm, LLC, "Filing joint tax returns generally results in greater deduction, but you should check with a Certified Public Accountant because there are many factors that come into play. There are instances where filing jointly can result in higher taxes, but you can file as 'married filing separately' in those circumstances instead of 'married filing jointly.'" Other financial advantages of marriage include life insurance benefits, more leniency in getting a mortgage, and entitlement your spouse's benefits like social security, disability, veteran, military, and pension plans.
Deborah J. Blum, Esq, a criminal, matrimonial, and family lawyer, says there are also "death benefits" to marriage. "Upon the death of a spouse, the other spouse will be entitled to a portion of their deceased partner's assets, unless there is an otherwise controlling document," she says. "Spouses can also plan for the transfer of assets (tax free) through estate planning, and they're entitled to certain retirement assets being paid to the surviving spouse, if they elect to have the right of survivorship."
Married couples experience several health-related advantages as well. For starters, a spouse can utilize benefits (like health insurance) that the other gains through their employment. "There could be an increased cost for having to add the other spouse, but the insurer has to offer that benefit," says Blum. "Depending on the company, certain other benefits could extend to the other spouse." Shaffer says other health benefits of marriage include hospital visitation rights, end-of-life decision-making, standing to sue for the wrongful death of your spouse, and leave from work.
After getting married, U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents can apply for their spouses to obtain permanent residency in the United States, according to Shaffer. This means that immigrants can obtain a green card without leaving the country, as long as they marry a U.S. citizen. "You can also get your citizenship quicker if you are married to a U.S. citizen," adds Shaffer. "You generally have to be a lawful permanent resident for five years before you are eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship, but if you obtained your green card based on marriage to a U.S. citizen and you are still married and living with your U.S. citizen spouse, you only have to wait three years."
While there are numerous other legal benefits of marriage, Shaffer calls out a few other major ones. "Although many states (and countries) have relaxed the requirements for adoptions for non-married couples and singles, it is generally much easier to adopt if you are married," says Shaffer. They're also granted spousal privilege in any legal proceedings, which means that one spouse can't be forced to testify against the other spouse in a court of law.
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