5 Legal Implications That Married Couples Should Know

bride and groom figures kissing on top of wedding cake

Marriage is all about the joining together of two lives, for better or worse. However, beyond the emotion and celebration, there are legal implications with regard to taxes, property ownership, insurance policies, and more to getting married.

At Sorge CPA, we believe that it’s important for our clients to understand the circumstances that they’re in, what that means for their finances and other plans, and how they can utilize the law to benefit them.


Here are five of the most important implications that married couples should know:

  1. Tax implications. Once a couple gets married, they become entitled to file a joint income tax return which can oftentimes simplify the tax filing process. However, it’s worthy to note that by doing so, the tax bill will either be higher or lower than when the person filed as an individual. This is because when couples file together, the income is often taxed in a higher tax bracket as there are now two incomes instead of one.

    Couples have the option to opt out of joint filing by choosing to file separately, but this method does not always guarantee that a person will be taxed less than they would if filing jointly with their spouse. For optimal filing status, you can speak with our tax advisors to receive advice on how to make the best financial decisions for your given situation.

    keys and wooden house on keychain
  2. Property ownership. Throughout a marriage, it’s common for a couple to own property together — whether it be a home, a business, a beach condo that gets rented out on Airbnb — you name it. With this in mind, there are various ways for married couples to own property together, including:
    • Sole tenancy, where one individual has sole ownership and the property is passed on in accordance with the will after one person’s death.
    • Joint tenancy, with the privilege of survivorship, where two or more people have equal ownership of a property. The property is then passed to the joint owner upon the death of one person, which can be used to effectively avoid probate.
    • Tenancy, in common, where the property is jointly owned with the privilege of survivorship, and the property is passed according to your will upon death.
    • Tenancy by the entirety, like joint tenancy, with the privilege of survivorship prevents a spouse from getting rid of the property without the consent of the other. This type of ownership is only possible for spouses.
    • Community property is property gained through marriage with equal ownership in states like AZ, CA, ID, LA, NV, NM, TX, WA, and WI.

  3. Insurance requirements. There are various types of insurance to consider when you get married, as there are different implications than if you were one individual. For example, in the event of death, life insurance can provide a safety net of income for dependents, children, or beneficiaries. Because of this, it usually makes sense for married couples to require more life insurance than single individuals. In fact, there are a number of scenarios to consider when it comes to life insurance:
    • If you are a single parent or are part of a family with young children or other dependents, you’ll need more or less insurance depending on the age of your children. The younger your children are, the more insurance you’ll need to cover their needs over a longer period of time. It is recommended that both spouses purchase insurance, especially if they are both working, as it should be in proportion to the amount that you earn.
    • Additionally, insurance should be bought to cover the services that would no longer be provided in the event of a death, including childcare, housekeeping, bookkeeping, and more.
    • If you are a married adult that has no children or other dependents, you won’t need as much insurance as the people given in the previous example. However, you’ll still want to ensure that you have enough insurance to cover any burial expenses, pay off any debts, and provide an easy transition for your surviving spouse.
    • Children typically only need life insurance to cover burial expenses and medical debts.

  4. Legal treatment of married couples. Married couples have certain legal benefits such as:

    • Married couples can inherit each other’s property automatically due to laws that support this motion, even if there’s not a will. Under this law, the surviving spouse will inherit a fraction of the deceased spouse’s property, at the minimum.
    • Married couples also have the privilege of speaking for one another in a medical crisis if one spouse loses capacity or consciousness, and to handle one another’s finances in a crisis as the power of attorney.

                            two people holding hands in a field

    While unmarried couples do not always have the same legal privileges and implications as married couples, they can still protect themselves through methods such as:

    1. Drafting a will in order to increase the chances of intentions being followed through with after a death.
    2. Consider owning property together in order to guarantee that the property will pass to the other joint owner at the time of the other’s death, due to the right of survivorship.
    3. Make a durable power of attorney to enable partners to handle financial issues on each other’s behalf should one become incapacitated.
    4. Make a healthcare proxy to allow partners to speak on each other’s behalf in the midst of medical decisions if one person becomes injured or unable to make decisions for themselves.
    5. Have a living will to let your wishes regarding artificial feeding, care, and other measures to prolong your life be known.

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