Estate Planning Considerations for Couples: Religious vs. Civil Marriages

The first consideration in Estate Planning for couples is marriage. In the following article, we’ll define what a “couple” is, as well as the two marriage options.

What constitutes a couple? In the United States, the word “couple” is used for both heterosexual and homosexual relationships. When Estate Planning for couples, same-sex relationships are treated in the exact same manner as a male-female partnership. Couples are also recognized whether or not they are married.

For those that choose marriage, two options exist for couples: religious and civil.

In the United States, a religious marriage typically takes place in a religious facility and is presided over by a religious leader -- like a priest or a rabbi.

The religious ceremony is a long-standing tradition in our culture, but it’s not a requirement. The less-glamorized civil procedure is of equal, if not more, importance. The civil marriage occurs when the couple obtains a marriage license and signs a marriage certificate.

That’s what the government cares about and what gives spouses marital rights.

Most marriages in the United States fall under both the civil and religious categories. A couple may choose to marry in a religious service, but will also compete the legal paperwork to be recognized as a married couple under civil law.

Rarely do people solely choose a religious marriage without the civil component, but it does happen. This makes things a little more complicated when it comes to Estate Planning. Such couples do not have the rights of a spouse with regard to estate tax exemptions, inheritance, etc. Because they are not legally recognized as spouses, couples that are in a religious marriage require different Estate Planning documents.

Regardless of the nature of your relationship, it's important to think about Estate Planning. The Presser Law Firm can assist you with all your Estate Planning needs. Contact our attorneys today for a complimentary preliminary consultation.

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