Marriage changes

When couples decide to marry, they embark on a journey that carries rewards and responsibilities with them. However, one of the most complex elements of transitioning into marriage is understanding the legal changes accompanying tying the knot. From filing taxes jointly to negotiating custody rights if the marriage ends, many pieces of this puzzle need to be considered for marriage to be successful. At Sawin Law, P.C., we understand how important it is for couples to grasp the legal aspects of marriage fully and are here to help guide you through these complexities.

  1. Tax Changes – Many couples may find that changing their tax status to file as married brings numerous advantages. These can include adjusting their tax bracket, utilizing the higher standard deduction amount, and accessing child tax credits, depending on the situation. Sometimes, a couple may even file as “married filing separately” to maximize their specific tax benefits.
  2. Inheritance – In Massachusetts, spouses have the privilege of gifting an infinite amount of money or assets to one another without worrying about taxes. But keep in mind that even though Massachusetts does not have an inheritance tax, it does have an estate tax. The estate tax is a tax paid by the estate of a deceased person if the taxable assets are worth more than a set threshold amount. The Massachusetts estate tax law sets a ceiling at $1 million, meaning that all gifts over that value will be taxed when the time comes.
  3. Retirement Benefits – Upon marriage, the government now recognizes you and your partner as one entity, which changes many things regarding your assets. While married, the amounts earned and applied towards your retirement account may now be able to be shared between spouses. In some cases, assets acquired before marriage may also become shared property.
  4. Next of Kin – Upon getting married, your partner is officially identified as your next of kin. This alteration dramatically impacts your legal rights, including what happens to your assets if you pass away without an active will. If there’s no will, the surviving spouse receives most of the property, and if there is one, it becomes irrelevant who you’re married to – the transfer of the assets, according to the document. Furthermore, should you be unable to make decisions regarding medical care yourself, your partner has the right to do so on your behalf.
  5. Health Insurance Benefits – Being married often carries with it the benefit of improved health insurance coverage – spouses can be added to the existing plan of one partner, who may have better benefits than a personal policy. Furthermore, in single-income families, being covered by one’s spouse rather than paying out of pocket is an attractive option as it helps to avoid additional expenses and guarantees a safe level of protection.
  6. Life Insurance – Being married alters your life’s legal and medical aspects and changes the life insurance benefits you qualify for. It is essential to update your beneficiary designation to ensure that your spouse will be the one who receives the financial assistance should you pass away. Failing to do so may result in another family member benefiting from the life insurance policy rather than your current spouse. Keeping your beneficiary designation up-to-date is essential to ensure this does not happen.
  7. Social Security Benefits – Married couples may be eligible for Social Security spousal benefits, which can provide up to 50% of the other partner’s Social Security benefits. In addition, when one spouse passes away, the surviving spouse may be eligible to receive survivor benefits. To qualify for these, the living spouse must typically wait until they reach 60 years of age before collecting some and full retirement age before receiving all of the deceased partner’s benefit payments.
  8. Family Medical Leave – The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons while still maintaining their group health insurance coverage. This is an invaluable benefit that legally married couples have that partners who are not legally married do not, as it allows them to care for an ailing spouse without worrying about job security or losing access to essential medical insurance.
  9. Paternity – Being married in Massachusetts offers certain legal protections regarding paternity issues. Should couples have a child while married or within 300 days of their marriage ending due to death, annulment, or divorce, the father is automatically considered the legal parent and must be named as such. This protects both parties from uncertainty and lengthy legal battles due to paternity disputes.
  10. Children’s Custody Rights – Children’s custody rights are an important and often contested part of getting divorced or separating. When parents separate, a married father still has custody and visitation rights unless explicitly denied by a court order. This protects the established parental role in the eyes of the law and provides a sense of security and stability for both parent and child during an already tumultuous time.

Marriage brings about many legal changes, some of which can be complex to navigate. If you are considering marriage or have recently gotten married, fully understanding the associated legal changes is vital. At Sawin Law, P.C., our team of experienced attorneys is here to help you understand your options and ensure that your rights and interests are protected in all matters pertaining to marriage law. Contact us today at (781) 713-1212 for a free consultation to discuss your particular situation and how we can help.