Marry or Live Together? Considerations for LGBTQ Couples

Should we marry or live together? Understanding the pros and cons and being proactive is important for LGBTQ couples.
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By Michelle Petrowski Buonincontri, CFP®

Marriage is difficult enough for a heterosexual couple. As human beings, we tend to shy away from those conversations around money habits, values and even the knowledge and or implication of our state’s laws governing property (equitable property vs. community property), family law as well as the impact of credit law. Should we marry or live together? What are the pros/cons of each? What are we giving up in each scenario?

Michelle Petrowski Buonincontri

Michelle Petrowski Buonincontri

We are “in love” of course and don’t want to ruin the good feeling by going down those paths. Right?

Wrong! Not knowing or being proactive, can set up a couple for failure on so many levels later on, and that can become even more complicated for LGBTQ couples, whether they are married or not.

A few areas of impact for LGBTQ couples:

Health insurance & healthcare spending accounts such as HSA, MSA, or FSA

The rising costs of health insurance premiums, out of pocket costs or costs incurred due to an unexpected event can devastate a family. Having access to an employer-offered family healthcare plan (even contributing to healthcare spending accounts) can reduce taxes paid, and help to defray these costs and minimize the financial risks – all equating to more money in your pocket.

Emergency fund requirements

Unfortunately, not every state explicitly protects folks from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender which can lead to a higher level of job loss, income insecurity, or pay inequities. Consequently, an emergency fund consisting of 10-12 months of household income becomes even more important than the three to six months of household income many typically suggest for an emergency fund.

Military benefits

Potential housing, healthcare, and survivor pension benefits for same-sex spouses of military service members. Additional information may be found at Military OneSource.

Retirement investments

Potential spousal beneficiary protections in employer retirement accounts, the ability to make IRA contributions for the non-working spouse (spousal IRA), and preferential inherited IRA rules for spouses that can help prolong asset growth and allow assets to potentially last longer in retirement. Also, see Three Ways that LGBTQ Couples Can Minimize and Optimize Their Retirement

Social Security & Medicare benefits

These are benefits afforded to married same-sex couples in retirement as well as a spousal death benefit – even potentially if divorced. This can be important if you haven’t worked or have a low-wage earning record, and every bit helps when we are talking about retirement income planning. Understand what you may be giving up. See Social Security Benefits for Spouses & the SSA.gov fact sheet for spouses.

Estate Planning

· Who will make decisions for me? “Next of kin” status can be afforded in financial, medical treatment, end of life and financial decisions. Do you have a power of attorney and healthcare directives – especially if you are not married?

· Is there a will? How is guardianship outlined for your children to ensure your wishes are followed?

· Ensuring assets and decisions are not inadvertently placed in the hands of the probate court - which may make property decisions not in alignment with what you wanted for your partner and family.

· Your estate at death may be large, is the utilization of the unlimited marital deduction for federal estate taxes important for your family?

As I review my own estate planning at year-end, I share these general thoughts with you for consideration. To consult a Certified Financial Planner for comprehensive advice on strategies that address your specific retirement planning needs; see www.CFP.net or www.oneconnect.net

About the author: Michelle Petrowski Buonincontri, CFP®, CDFA®

Michelle Petrowski Buonincontri, CFP®, CDFA®, is a divorce financial strategist, personal finance coach and mediator. She is the founder of Being Mindful in Divorce and New Direction Financial Strategies LLC, as well as an avid volunteer at Savvy Ladies in NY and Fresh Start Women's Foundation in Phoenix, and she works closely with the AZ National Guard. You can email her at Michelle@BeingMindulinDivorce.com.


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