Marital Benefits Without Getting Married

It’s becoming more and more common for couples to opt out of marriage and instead build their relationship and family on their own terms. Contrary to popular belief, it is possible for dating couples to structure their life in such a way as to gain many of the benefits of marriage. Here are a five ideas on how you and your partner can create marital-like benefits.

Health Care Directive

One major benefit of marriage is that spouses can make medical decisions for each other in case one becomes incapacitated. A dating couple can gain this benefit by each executing a health care directive that names the other as a health care agent.


Another major benefit of marriage is that if one spouse dies, the second inherits. A dating couple can gain this benefit by each executing a will that names the other as a beneficiary. Although there is no dating equivalent to a marital deduction and unused exemption portability for federal estate tax purposes, this only becomes an issue for couples who have more than $11.4 million of assets combined. Even then, a good estate plan can still help you avoid, or at least minimize, federal estate taxes.

Non-Probate Assets

If you are worried that a will naming your partner as a beneficiary may get challenged by your family members who dislike your partner, you can convert some of your assets to non-probate status, thereby, circumventing potential lawsuits.

A non-probate assets is one with a designated beneficiary or held in joint tenancy. At death, the assets are paid out to the beneficiary directly rather than going into your estate to be distributed via the will. For example, you can name your partner as a beneficiary on life insurance policies, bank accounts, brokerage accounts, and retirement accounts.

Cohabitation Agreement

A third benefit of marriage is that when the relationship ends, the married couple can go to court to divide their property and debt. A dating couple can gain this benefit, and more, by signing a cohabitation agreement. Unlike getting a divorce where the courts consider 50/50 to be an equal division, a dating couple can structure their separation as they see fit and equal. This can be dividing property down the middle, based on how property is titled, based on each person’s contribution to the purchase of the property, etc.

Unlike married couples who must get divorced in court, creating a public record of their assets and debts, a dating couple can agree to privately arbitrate the break up, ensuring that no one gets access to their financial information or personal problems. Rather than being assigned a Judge, a dating couple can choose the arbitrator. Rather than being restricted by divorce rules, a dating couple can choose their own break up rules. As such, a dating couple actually gets more end-of-relationship benefits from signing a cohabitation agreement than from getting married.

Stipulated Custody Agreement

A fourth major benefit of marriage is that when children are born, they are considered to be the children of both husband and wife, and each parent has the right to be with the children and make decisions for them. A dating couple can gain this benefit by signing and submitting to the court a stipulated agreement granting both parents joint legal and joint physical custody.

These are just ideas. They may or may not be a right fit. They may or may not all be available options for you. There may be other ideas that would better suit your relationship. If you are curious and want to set up your life in a way that will gain you the most marital benefits possible, then schedule a time to talk. We’ll work with you to come up with the best plan and will make that plan a reality.


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