Trusts and Estates

Ca. Trs. & Estates Quarterly 2017, Volume 23, Issue 1

AVOIDING THE KNOT: ESTATE AND TAX PLANNING FOR UNMARRIED COUPLES

By Nicole M. Pearl, Esq.*, and Elham Ardestani, Esq.*

Many couples today choose not to marry. Some want to avoid triggering the property rights and support obligations inherent in a marital relationship. Some have been through a painful or expensive divorce and are not eager to remarry. Others may want to preserve their social security benefits or maintain inheritance rights for children from a prior marriage. Still others may have a philosophical objection to marriage. Whatever the reason, couples should know the consequences ? some good, some bad ? of avoiding the knot.

I. FORGONE BENEFITS

By forgoing a marital relationship, couples give up all of the rights and benefits that are afforded to married couples under federal and state law. Married couples can take medical leave to care for one another without risking the loss of a job.1 Both spouses can continue health insurance coverage under COBRA if one spouse loses a job.2 Spouses can also petition for a non-citizen spouse to immigrate in a more timely and favorable manner with a higher chance of the non-citizen spouse ultimately being granted U.S. citizenship.3 These benefits are not afforded to unmarried couples.

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