The number of unmarried couples is on the rise, and with them a myriad of legal snarls and entanglements.
The number of unmarried couples is on the rise, and with them a myriad of legal snarls and entanglements. In fact, if you are not married to your partner, but have shared assets or living arrangements, the Wall Street Journal article says you may experience a sort of (un)marriage penalty.
According to the Census Bureau, the number of opposite-sex unmarried couples living together in the U.S. jumped some 13% in 2010 from the previous year, to about 7.5 million. The bureau also estimates the number of same-sex couples living together rose roughly 30 percent, to about 620,000 this year from about 476,000 in 2009. Both of those totals are expected to continue growing, as some younger couples delay marriage, older couples choose not to remarry and most states continue not to ban gay marriage.
If you, or someone you love, are part of an un-married couple, consider some of these strategies to help mitigate the effects of the (un)marriage penalty:
- Proper Titling of Assets. In the event of a break-up, there is no divorce process to realign the legal status of possessions, so the process will be messier. Of course, even without turmoil, movement of assets from one person to another may invoke gift taxes that were completely unplanned for, unless there is some documentation verifying who “actually” owns what.
- Proper Estate Planning. Certainly, each person should have a will to avoid their estate being distributed according to the state’s intestacy laws, which do not provide for un-married partners. Above that, one of the strongest estate planning tools can be a trust, as this will allow a legal means of distributing assets according to your wishes, and in private manner.
- Health-Care Directives. Finally, draft appropriate health-care directives, designating the individual(s) you would choose to make your medical decisions in the event you are unable to do so yourself. Without this, an unmarried partner has no legal basis from which to make health-care decisions for the other.
For more information about estate planning see our website at Maryland Estate PlanningTags: estate planning, health care directives, marriage, marriage penalty, unmarried couples