Same sex couples face many of the same challenges as
mixed-gender couples when planning for marriage.
Same sex marriages are recognized by Federal law and in many states, including New York, but there are still issues to think about before heading to the alter.
Same sex couples face many of the same challenges as mixed-gender couples when planning for marriage. As laws continue to change and more and more same sex couples decide to legally tie the knot, there are several things they must consider. This is especially true for future spouses established in their careers and financial lives. Like any couple planning to marry, the more assets and possessions you bring to the marriage the more you have at risk. Before taking the marital plunge, discuss with your partner the following:
Same sex marriages: Finances
Most experts agree it is important for same-sex couples to truly take initiative when it comes to financial matters. This is especially the case if they will live in a state that does not yet recognize same-sex marriage. A few of the most important financial questions to ask include:
- What is our current financial situation and what are our mutual financial goals? Make sure you each understand one another’s debt situation, as well as your general attitudes toward money.
- What are our retirement plans and what can be done to prepare for retirement? At the moment, social security benefits are available only in states where same-sex marriage is legally recognized, so you should create an alternate plan for income if there is a risk you will not qualify to receive benefits under your spouse. Alternative retirement savings is a smart decision regardless of your state’s specific laws, but even more so when there are no guarantees. Laws are likely to change, but for now it is best to prepare for the worst case scenario.
- Is marriage the best practical decision? Marriage changes how taxes are filed and might not be the smartest financial option depending on your circumstances. Speak with a tax attorney about how marriage will change your tax situation. Marriage could cause ineligibility for certain benefits, such as financial aid for education.
A prenuptial agreement can be a good tool for avoiding conflicts should your marriage end. Consider the same questions same-sex couples consider when determining if a pre-nup is right for you:
- Do either of you own substantial property?
- Is there a significant wealth discrepancy between you and your partner?
- Do you or your partner own a business?
- Do you or your partner have children from a previous marriage?
Same sex marriages: Estate Planning
Some of the issues addressed in a pre-nuptial agreement could also be addressed in a will. It is important to create a clear legal plan for your estate that will govern what happens to your assets once you die. You should create a will that states your intentions, regardless how much your estate is worth. Planning your estate also gives you an opportunity to assign power of attorney to your partner and share information about medical directives. Also make sure you have listed the correct beneficiaries for your retirement accounts and life insurance policies.
Same sex marriages: Children
If you or your partner has children from a previous relationship, you need to know who will be responsible for the children if something happens to either of you. Some choose to legally adopt their partner’s children to eliminate any questions. If your state does not allow co-parent adoption, consider co-guardianship or co-parenting arrangements.
Same sex marriages: Practical Matters
Whether or not same-sex marriage is legal in your state has little bearing if you are otherwise not eligible to legally marry. In order to marry, you must meet certain age, family relations, and mental capacity criteria. Laws vary from state to state, but in general, you must be of sound mind, legally an adult or emancipated from parents or have parent permission, and not be closely related to your spouse. Individuals must also end previous marriages before they can enter into a new one.
Choosing to marry your partner is a big decision and should not be taken lightly. As tempting as it is to be swept up in romance and the new opportunities unfolding throughout the country, it is important to take smart, well-planned steps on your way to the alter.