Legal Things to Do After Getting Married
Beyond the poufy dresses in white, dreamy proposals and scrumptious layer cakes is a whole new reality for newly weds. Most of the shows on TV and celebrity weddings are all about the huge moments and just before these big moments and preparations to that memorable time every bride and her groom never forgets. However, all of these shows hardly bother to shed light or depict life beyond the choreographed wedding moments when reality really sets in.
It is something else when you have a form W-2, budgets and bank balances to think about way after the honeymoon and everyone has almost forgotten about your big day.
There are many things that lead to confrontations and even divorces and financial worries and fighting over money is always at the top of the list. Once you have gotten married you must understand you have done one of the best things in your life, but you must move beyond that and settle legal matters thereafter.
For starters, you might not care much about how your wife or husband spends their money but the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) does. After signing a joint type of tax return, your spouse might not really hold you to it although the tax man will. This is why it is important to know a number of things about tax, especially now that you are married.
Firstly, your married status is ascertained as per the tax year's last day, which for individual taxpayers it is the last day on a calendar year. For example, even if December 31st is the day you got married, according to the IRS you have been married for the entire tax year. Likewise, those who divorce on December 31 or the month of March are considered not married for that particular tax year. Widowers and widows are the only exception allowed by IRS to file their taxes as married, something that is very popular among these taxpayers.
For same sex couples married under the law of the state, for federal reasons they are considered married. This is so in estate and gift taxes as well as income taxes. However, civil unions, domestic partnerships registered and other formal relationships a state law recognizes are not considered.
As per the Act of 2001-2013 on Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation, the standard deductions stand at $6,100 for individual taxpayers and $12,200 for married taxpayers. Another double reduction is when it comes to selling a home. For those who might have owned a home for a minimum of two years and was the primary residence for about five years, it is possible to reduce by $500,000 after selling the home. Individual taxpayers can only exclude around $250,000. For example, a house bought for $100,000 and then sold for about $600,000 means a single person can only deduct $250,000 before paying tax on the remaining amount of money while married taxpayers will deduct $500,000 and hardly part with any tax. To be excluded, one of the marriage partners needs to own the home for a minimum of two years although both need to live in the home for a minimum of 24 months.
It is also important to note the tax liability of a spouse is not inherited after marriage. Spouses with outstanding tax liabilities prior to getting down the aisle will not become your problem once you are married, ditto for student loans and child support defaults. Nonetheless, it is still a headache since filing tax jointly will mean that your refund could be seized but you can alert the IRS so that the refund can be split in what is called the Injured Spouse allocation.
While you hardly have to file tax jointly after marriage, it is not possible or legal to file as a single person. Those filing separate returns need to know the proper marital status for such a case is married but filing separately. If you decide to go this way, it is important for both individuals in the union to indicate and follow the same. For a spouse who wants to itemize deductions, both individuals in the marriage union need to itemize and if you decide the standard deduction is the way to go, both of you must go with standard deduction.
At the same time, once you get married a spouse cannot be your dependent but personal exemption. As you file joint tax returns, only a single exemption for your spouse and another for yourself are allowed.
Above all, remember the signature appearing on your tax return means a lot. It is possible to cheat on your wife or husband and never be caught but if you cheat the IRS you will always be found out. After signing your return, it is an acknowledgement of the fact that you understand what the return contains and you are fully in agreement.
It is worth remembering that most government agencies and financial companies only recognize you as married after presenting a marriage certificate or license certified copy. After marriage and having signed the marriage license, the wedding officiant will mail it to the proper county office and a week or a fortnight later it will be processed. Then a form is filled out and a small fee paid to request for the official document copies. While applying in person, online, fax or via mail, remember you have to give a proper identification, such as a passport or driver's license.
In case you are thinking about changing your name once you have walked down the aisle, you need to request another driver's license and a fresh Social Security card. It is important to have your name changed on your passport as well, including other identification forms you might be carrying. Once you have changed your name, start changing the name on basically every financial account, insurance policies and credit cards. You must really decide whether you really need to change your name once you have married or not. In a number of states, you need to choose a surname within the licensing process, a process you will have to repeat again if you ever decide to have your name changed again.
Credit cards and bank accounts
After getting married, whether you want to have your finances combined or not, opening a joint bank account might become vital, particularly for household expenses. Apart from the joint checking account, it is important to contact the credit card and bank lenders to have your spouse added as a person authorized in your accounts discussions. Remember if you do not contact the credit card company and bank about authorizing your spouse they cannot provide him or her with any required information on the account, whether there is an emergency or not.
Once you are married, you have a chance of joining the insurance plan of your spouse. Lots of insurance plans have a limit set on enrolling spouses once the marriage ceremony is over, in most cases one month. After that period has passed, you can only wait for the next open enrollment period to enroll into that particular cover. Couples who have different health cover plans via their work need to ascertain if they could save funds by choosing either of the two different plans or are they better off maintaining separate covers.
Retirement and life insurance
Those with retirement or life insurance accounts need to have their information updated so that the spouse can be made the beneficiary. Lots of life insurance policies give spouses a chance to choose many beneficiaries and not just one, including the percentage of funds each of them will be getting. It is also possible to continue supporting family members as you have been doing or if a relative has cosigned a particular loan you could indicate an amount of money that can be used to cover these expenses. In case your spouse depends on your money or income or both of you have loans or a mortgage, it is possible to go for another life insurance plan to fully cover your spouse in case of your death.
Property, money and marriage
After getting married, finances and property to a certain level will be merged. This is where you need to familiarize yourself with community and marital property as you learn all about keeping some assets you own as separate property in case there is cause to do so. Do not forget to think about tax and pre-existing debts if you haven't already.