Newlyweds (after five years together)!

married (1)In 2009 CNN reported that research from the University of Denver indicated that over 70% of couples are living together prior to marriage.

These statistics are probably no surprise to you. The number of couples living together before marriage has increased dramatically since the Greatest Generation married. You may be part of one of those couples.

Even though you may have worked through some of the typical problems associated with two people living together, there may be surprises or things you need to think about when you tie the knot officially.

Pre-nuptial Agreement
If one of you is bringing more assets into the mix and especially if there are children from first marriages involved, you may have decided to do a pre-nup to keep things stable after you marry.

Combined Finances
Even if you talked about money during your live together phase, officially tying the knot changes your financial picture to at least a degree.

You may bring expectations to the marriage that you didn’t have while living together – based on what you thought of as the norm growing up.

You may need to again discuss whether to have separate or joint or both accounts; who will do what on the financial front and for how long; what your long term goals are and etc.

Debt and Credit Scores
If you buy a house or take on other debt together, both of your credit scores will be considered and each of your incomes may be tapped for settling up – if you live in a community property state.

Estate Planning
Most states (in the absence of a will or other planning vehicle) will pass a good portion of your assets to your spouse, so if you come into a marriage with kids and want them to receive assets, you probably will want to develop new estate plans.

You’re married now, your expectations of each other may change.

Something which merely annoyed you before may become intolerable when you know you will have to put up with it forever.

You may bring ‘marriage expectations’ to your relationship that didn’t exist while living together. If your Dad always took care of the finances, you may sub-consciously expect your new wife to turn it over to you, even if she was handling both of your finances prior to marriage.

Legal protections of marriage
You now get some automatic stuff going on that may change the desired results you worked out as a couple living together.

In addition to inheritance laws providing for spouses, your employment benefits, government social security, medicare and disability benefits also do so.

Your spouse is your presumed beneficiary of your retirement plans in many cases and must sign away their rights to it specifically if you want it to go elsewhere.

You may be eligible to receive family rates on car and other insurance.

Your spouse is now entitled to speak for you in a medical situation and to make your burial arrangements.

Filing taxes jointly
The bad news is that your taxes may go up – thanks to the ‘marriage penalty’. The good news is that you can file jointly, saving at least one tax preparation fee.

Other people treat you differently

Your parents and/or grandparents may treat your spouse differently than they did when you were living together – sometimes with more acceptance.

Your friends may stop pestering you about when you are going to get married and start quizzing you about when you will start having kids.

Your children may start thinking about your spouse differently – perhaps fearful that the spouse will try to take over for their other parent.

If you are curious about what real live-ins that later married said to the question “What changes when you get married?”, here are a couple of resources to peruse:   Things You realize After You Get Married.

You might also want to take a look at a summary of legal benefits marriage provides on Nolo and read an article that talks about other benefits of marriage over living together at the New York Times.

What do you think needs to be considered when moving from a ‘live together’ to a ‘married’ status?

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