Saturday, August 11, 2007

11 Practical Matters To Consider Before You Get Married

Marriage is an act of free choice and personal commitment between two adults, and at the same time it is also a social institution. As such, the state has a vested interest in the success of your partnership as a basic unit of society. In the weeks and days before your wedding, or very shortly thereafter, you will have to take care of some of the following practical matters.

1. Find out how to apply for a marriage license in the city or county where the ceremony is to be held and meet whatever requirements exist there. These vary from place to place and state to state: waiting periods, blood tests, evidence of vaccinations, a general physical exam, etc. Ask your officiant about the licensing requirements, or call the county recorder clerk's office.

2. Make appointments for any medical checkups or procedures you want to have completed before marriage.

3. Change beneficiaries to include your spouse on any preexisting insurance policies such as health or life insurance or investment plans. Most people have these plans through their employer, so talk to your human resources at work to find out how your marriage will affect whatever policies and plans you have.

4. Compare the benefit and protection plans each of you holds and determine what else you may need. Contact your independent insurance agent for changes and additions on car and home-owner's insurance, as well as on any other coverage.

5. Add your spouse's name to any bank accounts, car registrations, investment accounts, or credit cards you intend to share. Be careful, though, because little words like “and” and “or” make a difference. A joint savings account for Jane Smith "and" John Smith means that both signatures are required for a transaction; "or" means either signature will do. You should understand that, if you hold bank accounts and/or credit accounts in both names, you will each have free access to those accounts and each be legally responsible for any bills incurred by the other.
Tip: It would be wise to thoroughly investigate the legal and tax ramifications, under the laws of your state, of placing any previously owned private property into joint ownership. The state does not automatically assume that a husband and wife are one entity, and sometimes, even if only in the interest of marital harmony, it makes sense to retain some "separate" property rights on significant holdings. Get professional advice for more information.

6. If you will change your name after marriage or if he will be combining his surname with yours, you each need to effect that change on driver's licenses, employment records, Social Security cards, bank accounts, credit cards, and so on. A married woman does not have to change her name at all, and failure to do so will not affect the legitimacy of children born of the marriage.In addition, in the U.S., under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA), a woman is entitled, and encouraged, to maintain her own separate credit rating. Even if she has no outside employment, she can establish a personal credit rating by simply using her own name. In addition, under the ECOA, a person may not be denied a credit application or refused a loan because of marital status.

7. If you have a will, you might want to review its provisions in light of your new status with an attorney in the state in which you will be residing after marriage. Rights of survivorship vary from state to state, and a will executed in one location is not automatically upheld in another.

8. If there are any assets at all between you and any concern for the welfare and convenience of your spouse should something happen, you should each have a will. Nobody likes to think about such things, but the time to do it is now when you are both healthy and happy.

9. If either of you has been married before or is receiving alimony, keep in mind that it will stop once you are remarried. Other aspects of the divorce settlement could be affected, as well. You will need to inform your former spouse about your marriage plans, and one, or both of you may need to see an attorney.

10. If either of you owns a business or if you plan to own and operate a business together, seek legal and professional advice. There are special considerations for husbands and wives as business partners under the law.

11. Review your tax situation. Most married couples still find filing jointly to be the easiest, most advantageous method. But that may not be true for you. Note that if you do file jointly, you will each be responsible for the full total of the tax bill.

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