As many are aware, North Carolina recently changed its position on same-sex marriage after the Supreme Court decided to let stand five federal appellate court rulings. As a result, October 10th was the first day that the state issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Whether you agree or disagree with this change, marriage will provide many asset protection benefits to same-sex couples, as well as increased rights and responsibilities. With marriage comes certain protective laws, such as a partial entitlement to the other person’s estate at death, having an insurable interest in the other for life and health, and long term care insurance as well as significant tax implications.
Many don’t know that marriage can increase your income tax if the couple files together. If both spouses receive a good income, they will pay higher taxes if they file together as a married couple than if they were single filing separately. However, marriage can also benefit couples, as spouses enjoy an unlimited marital gift tax exemption for transfers during life and an unlimited estate tax exemption when they leave their assets to one another at death.
In addition, marriage provides property ownership protection, as married couples can own property as Tenants by the Entirety in North Carolina. This type of ownership provides creditor protection, as well as allows their property to pass outside of probate at the first spouse’s death. Married couples can also elect to take the Social Security of their spouse if he or she receives a higher benefit than their own, and there are numerous other Social Security benefits. There are many benefits regarding retirement elections for surviving spousal benefits for pensions, IRA, 401(k), 403(b), 457 accounts and other qualified accounts.
Finally, many couples, especially second and subsequent marriages, should consider a pre-nuptial agreement before they marry, as these contracts establish how property will be handled if the couple divorces, or if one spouse dies. A post-nuptial agreement will provide similar protection.
If you have questions about asset protection for married couples, Medicaid, or Veterans benefits, consider W.G. Alexander & Associates – we offer a unique blend of asset protection, Elder Law and estate planning. You can also attend our free seminars, learn more through our website at www.wgalaw.com, or call us at (919) 256-7000.
Attorney Bill Alexander discusses these issues and more every Tuesday morning on W.G. Alexander & Associates’ radio program, “Asset Protection Today,” on TalkRadio 850 WPTK (AM). Be sure to listen from 9:00-10:00 AM.