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Legal Pitfalls of Marriage

My partner and I have been together almost 31 years. We are registered as domestic partners, but have been contemplating actual marriage.

However, one thing that is holding us back is this: If married and one of us should become extremely ill, requiring long-term hospitaliation and/or surgery of some sort and accrue huge medical bills (above and beyond what is covered by Medicare) and then die, the surviving spouse would suddenly be faced with having to pay all of the bills, would he not?

I've read of so many instances with married couples of this happening and the surviving partner having to actually declare bankruptcy because of astronomical medical bills.

I don't think this is true of domestic partners.

Perhaps someone with a legal background could address this. It would seem a definite deterrant to actually getting married.

by Anonymousreply 4403/29/2014

I think you misinterpreted what I meant. I would not want to see my spouse being left with hundreds of thousands of dollars of MY medical bills to pay if I were to die. (And, by the way, I have more health issues than he does, so I will probably go first.)

But, if something were to happen, he also does not want me to be saddled with HIS bills should he die.

I don't think either of us are selfish at all. We're each thinking of the other's future here.

by Anonymousreply 309/05/2013

I meant to add also that either one of us could lose our home if the above scenario happened. I've read about it a lot. We don't have tons of money socked away to be able to shell out a million dollars in medical payments.

by Anonymousreply 409/05/2013

The OP's concern is perfectly legitimate.

And if true that the partner will be stuck with large medical bills, the OP and partner should not get married.

I'm sure there are other pitfalls of marriage.

One pitfall is upon divorce being responsible for giving away half of your assets to your partner and in some cases, having to pay alimony and share your income after being divorced.

Also being stuck with any financial liabilities upon the death of a partner.

by Anonymousreply 709/05/2013

R1, your immediate jump to calling the OP a 'selfish twat' is very ignorant, small-minded, misguided, and inaccurate of you.

R1, you do not seem to be a deep thinking person or one with much knowledge. You are shallow and lack depth of thinking.

by Anonymousreply 809/05/2013

r10 said: [quote](Also, tax advantages don't necessarily favor married couples anymore. It is often to a person's advantage to file taxes as an individual these days.)

Agree, and also advise clients not to rush into marriage before considering ALL of the pros and cons.

But I disagree that the only advantage is being able to collect partner's SS when they die. First of all, this would only be an issue if their allowable benefit was greater than yours, in which case you'd get the higher of the two.

It also allows you to get survivor benefits available from your partner's employment plan, federal/military survivor benefits, and have options to treat an inherited 401K or IRA as your own for tax purposes. Also, if your combined assets are worth close to the estate tax limit (currently $5.25 MILLION), marriage greatly simplifies your estate planning chore and likely gives a better result.

There are technically many other advantages as well, but most can be duplicated by having wills and powers of attorney in place to achieve what you want to have happen in such situations.

by Anonymousreply 1109/05/2013

survivor benefits from your partner's employment plan?

what is that exactly?

by Anonymousreply 1209/05/2013

[quote]survivor benefits from your partner's employment plan?

Usually civil service plans, but sometimes employer pensions and annuities pay out a reduced amount to survivors of employees for a set period of years. Not very common.

See recent case at link. It's interesting that the court ruled in favor of the couple, even though their state (IL) is one of those that DOES NOT recognize same-sex marriages!

by Anonymousreply 1309/05/2013

Next time he sneezes, dump his sickly ass.

by Anonymousreply 1409/06/2013

OP, clearly marriage isn't for you!

by Anonymousreply 1509/06/2013

A serious legal pitfall in my mind is that your life may at some point be in your partner's hands. I was present in the ER waiting room when a doctor gave the spouse a choice and the family held their collective breath not knowing what the sociopath would do. At that point the right decision was made. The weeks and months that followed were a total nightmare as the spouse refused to get home health care or physical therapy for the injured guy, over-medicated him, and left him home alone (the most he could do on his own was dial the telephone). Recovery was slowed and in some cases impeded by this treatment. I fear giving someone legal control over my life most of all.

by Anonymousreply 1609/06/2013

So don't get married, R16. No one's forcing you.

And just because your friend had a sociopath as a spouse doesn't mean every spouse is a sociopath.

by Anonymousreply 1709/06/2013

r16 what do you mean 'the right decision was made'? Then you say it was followed by a total nightmare?

Something doesn't add up about your post.

by Anonymousreply 1809/06/2013

R16 sounds like that brother who threw fisticuffs at his sibling's lover in the hospital, throwing a fit trying to get his brother's POA and (most importantly) money.

by Anonymousreply 1909/07/2013

Gay marriage = gay divorce.

It will be very interesting to see how this plays out over the next 5 or 10 years.

by Anonymousreply 2009/07/2013

[quote]Gay marriage = gay divorce. It will be very interesting to see how this plays out over the next 5 or 10 years.

I think most of my clients who married, so far, are pretty much sure they'll stay together forever. And that should be a definite prereq before entering into one.

I was surprised to find that some of my AZ clients actually got married in CA or MA, years ago, and never mentioned it to me. Because they live in a state that never recognized the marriage, and DOMA prevented it from being recognized on federal, they felt it was a "non-issue." In some cases, they are not even with their spouses anymore, and I had to advise them that they need to file for divorce in the state where they married, which can be done locally through an attorney, or they'll have to file as married next year. And one of them was on extension, so I had to rush to get them filed before Sept 15, which is the deadline after which such couples CAN'T file as unmarried anymore.

by Anonymousreply 2109/07/2013

R21, most people who marry (including heterosexuals) are "pretty much sure they'll stay together forever."

But in 50 percent of the marriages, they do not stay married.

by Anonymousreply 2209/07/2013

TAX TROLL! I hope you might be able to answer some curiosities I have about the whole DOMA decision...

My partner and I live in CA. We have an RDP, so the past two years we've gone through the hassle of filing three tax returns (1 state return filed as married, 2 fed returns reflecting our community property income split). We've intended to be married for years (we didn't do it back in 2008 because we weren't sure it would be valid with Prop 8 looming) and now we're ready to tie the knot. We're planning to be married in December.

My questions are about some of the tax ramifications of marriage; specifically, regarding the timing of our wedding:

Is it true that even if we're married in December, the IRS will consider us as having been married the entire tax year?

I currently have my partner on my company's health insurance plan. One of our hassles is that I have to pay tax on the value of the insurance benefit my company provides to my partner-- that's tax on "additional income" of almost $500 per month. If we're married in December, when we file our 2013 tax return can I adjust my income to exclude that additional income? If so, can it be excluded for the entire year, or just from the time we're married (basically my last two paychecks for the year)?

I work for a very large, privately held company that prides itself on treating all of its employees fairly. Their HR professionals and attorneys are actively working to understand the ramifications of this year's decisions and they're keeping us posted, but they're waiting on guidance from the DOL before they make any adjustments to their policies. It's a confusing time all around!

I'm just looking forward to a much less complicated tax situation in the years to come.

Thanks in advance for your insight-- it's always great to hear from you!

by Anonymousreply 2309/07/2013

[quote]Is it true that even if we're married in December, the IRS will consider us as having been married the entire tax year?

Correct. Your marital status is determined as of December 31 of each year.

[quote]I currently have my partner on my company's health insurance plan. One of our hassles is that I have to pay tax on the value of the insurance benefit my company provides to my partner-- that's tax on "additional income" of almost $500 per month. If we're married in December, when we file our 2013 tax return can I adjust my income to exclude that additional income? If so, can it be excluded for the entire year, or just from the time we're married (basically my last two paychecks for the year)?

You should discuss this with your employer. Ideally, since marriage is recognized for the entire year, they can remove the imputed income from your taxable wages, before the W-2 form is printed. They can also apply to get a refund of the Social Security and Medicare tax you (and they) paid on these amounts, so it saves them money too.

If they refuse to recognize it retroactively (which they techncailly can do), you should inform them in writing as of the day of the marriage, and make sure no further income is imputed on benefits received that day forward. If they make a mistake and keep doing it, you can insist they file a W-2C and correct it. In any case, it is no longer taxable at the point where you are married.

[quote]they're waiting on guidance from the DOL

I don't believe Department of Labor will have anything to do with this. It is IRS guidance, which should be available quite soon.

Link below is to latest IRS pronouncement on same sex marriage, and (at bottom) contains a link to the Revenue Ruling and some other info.

by Anonymousreply 2409/07/2013

Thanks, Tax Troll. You're the best!

by Anonymousreply 2509/07/2013

OP Marriage does not necessarily mean you're responsible for the partners health debts if they pass away. My dad had severe complications from radiation treatment for his cancer and required a team of doctors for surgery. He ended up having to have additional emergency surgeries and ended up in the hospital for over a month eventually being transferred to a long term facility. He eventually died. My mother did not have to pay any of his medical debts, which were probably huge, afterwards.

My parents were married for over 50 years but my mother loved to keep things separate like separating credit cards, car ownership and bills. The house was in her name only which probably helped because the medical people couldn't go after anything.

My point is just because you're married doesn't mean you have to have all your finances joint. Also check your state laws. My parents lived in Florida.

by Anonymousreply 2609/07/2013

Y'all! My cooter is itchin so bad right now! I AM SERIOUS!

by Anonymousreply 2709/08/2013

Simmer down, OP, no need to fret. If you need to handle things in the hospital for your partner, just do it like Eunice would.

You are welcome

by Anonymousreply 2809/08/2013

Seems pretty simple to me.

Go to an attorney (financial adviser, accountant) list all your assets and potential assets (all that stuff they always want) - then determine if the financial risks outweigh the benefits.

Civil marriage is just a contract.

You can still have a commitment ceremony if you want to have some kind of celebration. Get a Faerie to do a handfasting for you. All the ones I've been to have been better than any church wedding I've attended.

You've been together 31 years - you don't mention children. I don't seen any reason to make this decision other than finances.

by Anonymousreply 2909/08/2013

Organize and fight to get universal healthcare and then you won't have to think about this.

by Anonymousreply 3009/08/2013

I like the way you think, OP. If you make it swift and neat the insurance check comes pretty quickly.

by Anonymousreply 3109/08/2013

R16 here - right choice was surgery with 50% chance or allowing him to bleed to death from internal injuries.

I detailed the nightmare. Family stood on the sidelines for weeks while injured was abused and neglected.

I sound like someone who wanted control? Far from it. I was the one trying to keep the peace in the ER and ICU waiting rooms for 30+ days and to appease the sociopath in the weeks that followed just to keep this guy alive.

The advice to not marry a sociopath is good, if only one could tell beforehand. I'm just saying that a pitfall of marriage is you hand over the legal right to make medical decisions if you are incapacitated.

Plenty of us are in relationships that are rather one sided - if a relationship is all about the other person normally - what do you think will happen in a crisis?

by Anonymousreply 3209/08/2013

Even if you're married you can designate someone else to make your medical decisions by having a medical power of attorney do it. This is done even if you're not married to a sociopath. Maybe you're married to someone who you know would never be able to pull the plug if you needed it done so you designate someone that's not as close for your medical decisions.

by Anonymousreply 3309/08/2013

OP here. I am not worried about making medical decisions for one another; we already have that specified in our wills, that we each have medical power of attorney for each other.

What I am concerned about is one of us being saddled with huge medical bills if the other one falls ill and dies. That could have all sorts of dire consequences...losing the house, depleting whatever we have saved, etc.

This is something I frankly had not thought about before until we started contemplating actually getting married. I would not want to have my partner become destitute if I should die and leave a bunch of medical bills behind.

by Anonymousreply 3409/09/2013

OP it probably depends on the state. Here's an example from someone in Maryland re this:

"My spouse died recently. All of our property was jointly owned. I am receiving medical bills with charges I did NOT authorize. Am I required to pay these bills?"

No. You are not responsible for paying from your own income or property for any debts or expenses that are your spouse's alone unless you have actually agreed to accept financial responsibility. If all of the property your spouse owned at the time of death was owned jointly with you (with the "right of survivorship"), that property is solely yours upon your spouse's death. Therefore, you are not responsible for paying these bills.

However, if your spouse owned assets or property of any sort that was not jointly owned with the right of survivorship, that property would be in your deceased spouse's estate. You would need to probate the estate, and if there was anything left after expenses that have priority (such as burial expenses), then your spouse's creditor might be entitled to payment from the estate."

by Anonymousreply 3509/09/2013

Here's the link to what I posted in R35

OP check your state laws.

by Anonymousreply 3609/09/2013

from R5 ... [quote] "... and if there was anything left after expenses that have priority (such as burial expenses), then your spouse's creditor might be entitled to payment from the estate."

This is correct, but I suggest extreme caution here. If you are the surviving spouse or executor, you could have a fiduciary liability to third party creditors, for failure to pay out the decedent's estate in accordance with the law. "I didn't know any better" won't help that. You could indeed become liable personally for debts which you SHOULD have paid with the deceased's assets, but you failed to do so.

I've seen people burnt by this, several times. If there is a chance creditors may be circling, get legal advice in distributing any assets from the estate.

by Anonymousreply 3709/09/2013

Another legal complication, recently brought to my attention. Let's say you have a 401K sitting with your former employer, and you have considered whether to roll it over or take it out and pay the tax. You get married in the interim.

You see a chance to buy a business, and decide to use your 401K money, even though it will result in a sizeable tax bite. Your spouse is against you taking that chance, feels it should remain as a retirement savings. You say "You're entitled to your opinion, but this is my 401K money from BEFORE we were married, so you have no say in the matter! I'm doing what I want,"

WRONG. Once you are married, your spouse must sign off on any distribution from a retirement plan. If he doesn't, you can't withdraw the money.

The above is the case whether OR NOT you are in a community property state. But let's take this a step further: Let's say spouse eventually agrees to let you take the money out, and signs off on it. You take the distribution and deposit it into your joint checking account, waiting for the closing on the purchase of the business. Meanwhile, your marital problems escallate, and you separate. You decide it would be wise to move the money out of the joint account, but he beat you to it, and you find that half of it is gone. You scream that he had no right to it, since it was not community income, but (deferred) earnings from before the marriage.

WRONG. You "tainted" it by depositing it in an account that *was* community property, thus allowing him access to his half of it, under the CP laws of most states.

One more variation: You figured that putting the money in the joint account might come back to bite you, so you instead deposited it into your old, separate checking account, where your biweekly wages are also direct deposited by your employer (You pat yourself on the back for not switching that to the joint account!) You're still screwed, since the money deposited in your separate account by your employer is earned income, which is community income by default. Tainted account, reachable in legal action by your spouse.

This shit gets complicated, folks. My advice is (1) Be VERY sure before you marry, including have a written pre-nup on any financial actions you want to take which might not be supported by your spouse. and (2) Realize this is an entirely new ballgame, with a new set of rules. Don't assume anything, unless you consuult with your attorney, insisting on advice in writing.

- TaxTrollEA, aka The Marriage Grinch :)

by Anonymousreply 3809/20/2013

[quote]You scream that he had no right to it, since it was not community income, but (deferred) earnings from before the marriage. WRONG. You "tainted" it by depositing it in an account that *was* community property, thus allowing him access to his half of it, under the CP laws of most states.

Another variation on this same theme would be inheritance. If I'm not mistaken, even in community property states, an inheritance is NOT considered marital property. However, once you've co-mingled it with other assets, or maybe use it buy or renovate a home which is in both of your names, it's pretty much up for grabs. Always best to keep an inheritance in its own separate account or portfolio.

by Anonymousreply 3909/20/2013

[quote]Organize and fight to get universal healthcare and then you won't have to think about this.

EXACTLY!!!!

Why are we worried about this? It should be a non-issue. If everyone had affordable health care, we wouldn't need to worry about hiding assets or covering our asses.

It's a bunch of bullshit and I don't blame OP one bit for hesitating to marry due to the medical bills.

Of course, OP could always pull a Newt and just dump his spouse once he ends up on his death bed.

by Anonymousreply 4009/20/2013

It seems quite odd to me that our tax laws don't favor married couples. This country claims to support the family and marriage but has no problem screwing married people when it comes to the IRS - why is that?

by Anonymousreply 4109/20/2013

[quote]It seems quite odd to me that our tax laws don't favor married couples. This country claims to support the family and marriage but has no problem screwing married people when it comes to the IRS - why is that?

The short answer is that tax laws *do* favor married couples ... circa 1950-1960 or so. That's when the gist of our current tax code was originally written, when the norm for married couples was kind of like what you see on the TV show from that era, "Leave It To Beaver." (Ward goes to the office, wife June stays home - wearing a party dress and cooking - to take care of Wally and the Beaver.) Of course, that kind of family setup rarely exists anymore, with TWO-earner couples being the overwhelming majority of married couples.

While our tax rates, deductions and exemptions, make sure that a one-earner couple pays less in tax than a single making the same income, they don't (unless in the lower part of the 25% bracket or less, and without any one of about a dozen tax situations that are exceptions) pay less than two singles earning that amount combined. Hence, the so-called "marriage penalty," a flaw in the system, which originally affected taxpayers in EVERY tax bracket. At one point, Congress passed an arbitrary deduction for part of the lesser-earning spouse's income, but that really didn't eliminate the penalty. The elder Bush, during his presidency, more-or-less eliminated the inequity for those in the lowest tax brackets, but it still exists today for those in the upper 25% bracket and higher.

There are also inequities beyond the tax brackets, as some of you may soon learn. Before, my unmarried LGBT couples could plan to do some income and deduction shifting, by having common deductible expenses paid by one partner (who would itemize) while the other (usually the one with the lower tax bracket) would claim the standard deduction. If they get married, that is no longer possible: Even if they elect to file separately, if one itemizes, the other cannot claim the standard deduction, but can only itemize as well.

Other situations where taxes may increase for such couples: you both have large capital or passive losses, you co-own rental properties that lose money, you have dependent children, you qualify for certain federal credits limited based on AGI, or you are receiving Social Security benefits. (Just a few examples, not an inclusive list) In most cases, you really won't know until you prepare the return and see.

I agree with you that this makes no sense whatsoever, especially with a Congress that is constantly bleating about "family values." Yes, they don't really care about LGBT couples, but the vast majority of folks who get screwed by this glitch in the tax system are heterosexual married couples. Go figure.

by Anonymousreply 4209/20/2013

Has anyone else had trouble getting health insurance while the federal government considers you married and the state doesn't, and you can't be covered under your spouse's work health insurance because the state doesn't recognize you're married, but you can't get subsidies because the federal government does?

by Anonymousreply 4303/29/2014

Gay marriage was pushed as a marketing devide for the wedding and debt-collection industries.

You wanted it, you got it, now go get married.

by Anonymousreply 4403/29/2014
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