Aside from locking down that person who is now forced to laugh at your bad jokes for the rest of your lives, marriage comes with many benefits you may not have realized. Of course, in more recent years, marriage is not necessarily expected of adults, domestic partnerships are more accepted, and more people are choosing to remain legally single.
But before you decide to jump on the unmarried bandwagon, saying “I do” can add legal, financial, and even health benefits you wouldn’t experience by deciding not to tie the knot. If you’re thinking about making the commitment, or are newly engaged or married, take a look at the benefits you’ll enjoy in addition to your new husband or wife!
1. Unlimited Marital Tax Deductions – As a married couple, you can both enjoy unlimited asset transfers, free from tax.
2. Estate Tax – Unlike domestic partnerships, a surviving spouse will be passed their deceased spouse’s estate tax-free.
3. Gift Tax – All gifts passed between spouses, provided you are both U.S. citizens, are tax-free. Non-married couples are often surprised to learn that gifts made to one another can be taxed.
4. Joint Tax Filing – This benefit doesn’t always work in married couples’ favor, particularly if both spouses are employed with high-paying jobs. However, a stay-at-home spouse and a working spouse can benefit greatly from filing jointly. Various other qualifying tax credits are also available to married couples who file jointly.
5. Social Security – Spouses can collect a Social Security benefit that provides them with 50% of their spouse’s Social Security benefit, calculated at their full retirement age. This is especially helpful if one spouse doesn’t qualify for their own Social Security benefit, or has never worked under Social Security. If you are trying to collect on your spouse’s benefit, you must be at least 62 years old and your spouse must be receiving or eligible for retirement or disability benefits.
6. Prenuptial Agreements – “Prenups” are often viewed in a negative light, as if there is a certain expectation the marriage will fail. However, the reality of prenuptial agreements is that they are an important protection for a spouse who may not work, or earns significantly less than their husband or wife. Should the marriage end, assets are divided up fairly under a prenuptial agreement.
7. IRA Benefits – Individual Retirement Accounts, or IRAs, offer a few different benefits to married couples. A spouse may roll over a deceased spouse’s IRA to their own, or an employed spouse can contribute to a spousal IRA account, if the other person is not employed.
8. Protection of Assets – In the unfortunate case that your spouse dies without a will, the state will dictate what happens to your assets. In the case of a domestic partnership or unmarried couple, the deceased person’s family members may take hold of assets, leaving the partner out of the equation.
9. Decision-Making Power – If one spouse becomes incapacitated, either due to a car accident or some other severe health issue, the other spouse will maintain control over financial matters and assets. Unmarried couples may find they are left out of healthcare and financial decisions in these cases, with the power being transferred to parents or siblings instead.
10. Survivor’s Benefits – If your spouse receives pension benefits and has elected to have survivor’s benefits as well, you will still receive those pension benefits after they are deceased.
11. Home Buying Power – Mortgage lenders are more inclined to approve a home loan to married couples. A combined income, in most cases, and a legal obligation to stay together give married couples an advantage when buying a home. Unmarried couples may have trouble finding a lender, or might be required to come up with a higher down-payment as a sign of commitment.
12. Wrongful Death Cases – If your spouse is in a fatal accident, you may be able to sue for wrongful death. Non-married couples may find they are unable to recover damages in wrongful death situations.
13. Hospital Visitation – As a spouse, you will have easier access to your husband or wife if they are ever being held in the hospital. Known as next-of-kin status, this also grants you medical decision-making rights if your spouse becomes sick or disabled while in the hospital.
14. Inheritance Benefits – As mentioned before, you can receive your spouse’s estate tax-free in the event of their death. You may
also still retain inheritance rights even when your spouse dies without a will in place, a benefit not available to unmarried couples.
15. Burial/Final Arrangement Decisions – Spousal status also means you have the decision-making power to make burial and cremation arrangements for your spouse in the event of their death.
16. Parental Benefits – In most cases, married couples will have an easier time applying for and being approved for stepparent or joint adoptions, or joint foster care rights.
Health & Employment Benefits
17. Health Insurance Benefits – As a married couple, you and your spouse have the opportunity to receive health insurance benefits through your spouse’s employer. This affords you the luxury of choosing the employer with the better benefits, if you’re both employed. Or, if one of you is not employed or self-employed, you can receive insurance through your spouse’s job. Rates for couples are often better, too, than plans for individuals.
18. Veteran and Military Benefits – Men and women currently serving in the military, or veterans of the military can receive a variety of educational opportunities, medical care, and other special loans. Military or veteran spouses generally have access to those same benefits.
19. Paternity Benefits – Paternity questions and disputes are virtually a non-issue for married couples. Of course, exceptions can occur, but paternity issues are rare among married couples.
20. Family Leave Benefits – Your employer will likely grant you leave when your spouse is ill, or bereavement if a close family member of your spouse passes away.
21. Overall Health Benefits – On average, married couples appear to lead healthier lives than those who remain unmarried. The Journal of Health and Social Behavior published a study in 2009 tracking marital history and health of nearly 9,000 men and women in their 50s and 60s. The findings showed that those who became single, either by divorce or death of their spouse, suffered a decline in physical health. The single participants reported 20% more chronic health issues like heart disease and diabetes, than those who were still married. The unmarried also aged less gracefully. So drop the wrinkle cream and head to the altar, folks!
22. Children’s Health Benefits – Children of married couples have also been found to live healthier lifestyles than those of unmarried parents. Poor results in school, increased risk of serious illness, and an increased likelihood to abandon school altogether have all been linked to children with unmarried parents.
23. Longer Life – Married couples have even reported longer lifespans than those who remain unmarried. Emotional support from a spouse, as well as sharing a safe space to discuss tough issues and feelings lead to healthier mental states for married couples, often prolonging life.
24. Avoid Depression – Healthy, functioning marriages “can provide stress and anxiety relief in many different forms: encouraging each other to strive for healthier goals (think: quitting binge drinking, eating healthier, going after that dream job), complimenting each other’s positive qualities and celebrating each other’s successes,” according to clinical social worker and psychotherapist Shira Burstein. Keeping stress, anxiety, and other thoughts and feelings to yourself, without the comfort of a spouse to confide in, can often lead to an increased risk of depression.
25. Intimacy Benefits – Married couples are also known to experience increased levels of serotonin, a natural antidepressant and mood booster. Serotonin levels can be affected by the thought of coming home to your spouse, knowing they will be there to comfort you with physical affection, driving intimacy in the relationship. While many point out a single sexual partner for the rest of a married person’s life as a negative aspect of marriage, the fact remains that a reliable, supportive, and dedicated spouse creates overall happiness in the long-run for married couples.