The percentage of Americans who have never married is at an all-time high, says the Pew Research Center. In 1960, some 10 percent of men age 25 and older had never married, compared to approximately 8 percent of women in the same group. In 2012, those percentages had more than doubled to 23 percent and 17 percent, respectively. While some of this trend can be attributed to the fact that people are marrying later in life, a lot of it is due to cohabitation and raising of children in non-traditional families. Roughly 25 percent of adults age 25 to 34 are living with a partner. This percentage of never-been-marrieds is higher for blacks (36 percent) and Hispanics (26 percent) than for whites (16 percent). Shifting attitudes towards marriage indicate that 18-29 year-olds by a 2 to 1 margin believe that society is just as well off if people have priorities other than marriage and children, while more than half of adults older than 50 say that society is better if people make marriage and childrearing a priority.
Regardless of where an individual stands on the spectrum of opinions, it is helpful to know some of the benefits of marriage, particularly from a legal and financial perspective, before becoming too wedded to a particular point of view. If you have any questions about the legal or financial implications of marriage, you should consult a knowledgeable family law attorney for legal advice.
Six Benefits of Marriage
For couples who have made a lifelong commitment to each other, marriage does have some legal and financial advantages. The following are a handful of examples:
- The federal estate tax deduction. When one spouse dies, the estate passes to the surviving spouse tax-free, up to $5.34 million dollars in 2014. Combined with the lifetime gift tax exemption, both spouses can gift up to $10.68 million to future generations without paying any federal gift or estate taxes.
- The gift tax marital deduction. Married couples can make unlimited tax-free gifts to each other, if the recipient spouse is a U.S. citizen. Unmarried couples are subject to a $14,000 annual maximum.
- The ability to roll over a deceased spouse’s IRA. A spouse can transfer the funds of her deceased spouse’s IRA into her own IRA, thereby postponing minimum distributions until 70 and a half. A surviving significant other has to start taking distributions immediately.
- A non-working spouse’s IRA contribution. Non-working spouses who cannot open their own IRA can nonetheless contribute to their working spouse’s IRA. This is not true for unmarried couples.
- Survivor benefits from a spouse’s pension plan. A spouse who has a pension plan can elect to have survivor benefits, thereby allowing a surviving spouse to continue receiving payments.
- Social Security benefits. Spouses can receive up to 50% of the other spouse’s Social Security benefit and an increased benefit upon the death of the other spouse. No such benefit exists for significant others.
These are just a few of the financial advantages of marrying rather than living together. Whether you are contemplating entering into or ending a marriage, it is important to understand every aspect of your decision, including the legal and financial consequences. James S. Cunha is a South Florida Marriage Law Attorney who serves clients in Palm Beach, Martin, Broward, Hendry, St. Lucie, Okeechobee, and Miami-Dade Counties. Call the Law Offices of James S. Cunha, P.A. today at (561) 429-3924, or toll free at 1 (800) 558-1227 for a consultation.