So, you recently changed your Facebook status to “Engaged.” Congratulations! While it’s fine to get caught up in the magic and majesty of devoting every fiber of your mental, emotional, and physical being to someone who vibrates on your wavelength, you can’t let your elation keep you from carrying out your due diligence. Neglecting to sign the right form or look out for your future interests (shared and otherwise), can change your, “Oh, hell yes!” to an, “Oh, hell no!”
Just like our Beyonce reference in the title of this piece, we’re hoping this article helps you from having to sing the “Single Ladies” tune later on down the road! Let’s take a deep dive into the legal aspects of marriage.
You likely knew/feared this one was going to pop up, so we may as well go ahead and get it out of the way first, right? The biggest issue most people have with pre/postnuptial agreements is that such agreements cast shadows of doubt on the marriage’s future stability and the couple’s shared commitment. The truth of the matter is there’s no way to tell what the future holds, or how life can change us.
With a prenuptial agreement, you and your soon-to-be-spouse decide which financial assets and obligations you each retain or receive in the event of divorce. One helpful way of looking at this type of agreement is gaining unblemished clarity on your specific debts, assets, and rights. Clearing up confusion and knowing exactly where you stand is always a boon when it comes to relationships, wouldn’t you agree? The agreement also lays out asset dissolution and spousal support in the event of divorce.
What’s a postnuptial agreement? It’s the same as a prenuptial agreement, except it’s put into place after a couple has married rather than before getting married.
You don’t need “buy-guacamole-at-Chipotle-without-a-second-thought” money to have a will. This is another legal matter that prepares you and your betrothed for the unexpected. You likely want your future spouse to legally inherit your assets in the event of your death. Your will allows you to pass along those assets so that the transfer is quick and easy, rather than one plagued with legal hurdles, hoops, and frustration.
Do you plan on starting a family or expanding your current one? Who will take care of your kids if both you and your spouse were to suddenly leave this earth? Maybe there’s a family business that needs to be sold or remain in operation upon your untimely death. These are all matters you can include in your will. You have to think about the fact that while you may be gone, parts of your legacy still remain. You have the right (and possibly even the responsibility) to secure that legacy and pass it on to those you wish to inherit it. If you don’t, the state will do it for you, and it may do so in a way that goes against your desires.
It’s time to talk taxes. While we don’t like hearing the word on a daily basis, it’s important to have a serious discussion at least once a year. Do yourself a favor and sit down with an accountant (preferably one familiar with handling taxes for LGBTQ couples) to talk about what you can expect from filing your taxes for the first time as a married person. Specifically, ask about:
- Which deductions and credits you qualify for
- What your new standard deduction will be
- How much tax you’re likely to owe (bring tax forms for the previous year)
- What you can do to maximize your refund
You may not want to visit an accountant in the days following your return from your honeymoon, but doing so could give you the heads up you need to prepare yourself accordingly for the marriage tax penalty as well as the marriage bonus. Yep, there’s a marriage bonus. Now you have an incentive for talking with an accountant!
Medical Power of Attorney
You and your soon-to-be-spouse may have discussed your favorite TV show of all time (the correct answer is always “Battlestar Galactica”) and whether you believe in life on other planets, but have you discussed whether you’d like to be kept on life support if an accident or medical condition were to put you in a coma or otherwise incapacitated? With a medical power of attorney, you leave no doubt as to what your decisions are regarding such matters, or whom you want making medical decisions on your behalf.
It’s okay for you to appoint someone other than your spouse as the agent of your medical power of attorney. A close friend may be more knowledgeable about medical science than your spouse, or you may have a friend who’s not intimidated by medical professionals. Talk your wishes over with your spouse and your reasoning behind those wishes. Who knows, it may be a conversation that brings you even closer together and helps you learn more about each other. Lawyers can help you just as much in times of joy as they do during times of frustration. You don’t have to invite them to your wedding, but you should most certainly involve them in your marriage.