In 2009, the GAO prepared a new list which totaled about 1,100 federal benefits.
On the order of 1,400 legal rights are conferred upon married couples in the U.S. Typically these are composed of about 400 state benefits and over 1,000 federal benefits. Among them are the rights to:
|joint foster care, custody, and visitation (including non-biological parents);|
|status as next-of-kin for hospital visits and medical decisions where one partner is too ill to be competent;|
|joint insurance policies for home, auto and health;|
|dissolution and divorce protections such as community property and child support;|
|immigration and residency for partners from other countries;|
|inheritance automatically in the absence of a will;|
|joint leases with automatic renewal rights in the event one partner dies or leaves the house or apartment;|
|inheritance of jointly-owned real and personal property through the right of survivorship (which avoids the time and expense and taxes in probate);|
|benefits such as annuities, pension plans, Social Security, and Medicare;|
|spousal exemptions to property tax increases upon the death of one partner who is a co-owner of the home;|
|veterans' discounts on medical care, education, and home loans; joint filing of tax returns;|
|joint filing of customs claims when traveling;|
|wrongful death benefits for a surviving partner and children;|
|bereavement or sick leave to care for a partner or child;|
|decision-making power with respect to whether a deceased partner will be cremated or not and where to bury him or her;|
|crime victims' recovery benefits;|
|loss of consortium tort benefits;|
|domestic violence protection orders;|
|judicial protections and evidentiary immunity;|
Most of these legal and economic benefits cannot be privately arranged or contracted for. For example, absent a legal (or civil) marriage, there is no guaranteed joint responsibility to the partner and to third parties (including children) in such areas as child support, debts to creditors, taxes, etc. In addition, private employers and institutions often give other economic privileges and other benefits (special rates or memberships) only to married couples. And, of course, when people cannot marry, they are denied all the emotional and social benefits and responsibilities of marriage as well.
To see the rest:
Legal Rights And Benefits of Marriage
What Else You Get By Saying “I Do”
Although to some marriage is nothing more than a “piece of paper,” the formal ceremony does afford some rights and benefits you can’t get otherwise.
In general, society treats the spouse as the most privileged party, more so even than mom, dad or the kids. This is an important factor when it comes to making medical decisions or receiving public assistance benefits on behalf of your spouse, or rights that would otherwise require a power of attorney or similar legal document.
Social Security, disability and medicare benefits can all be paid to a spouse as can veteran and military benefits. Those with insurance plans through an employer can normally add a spouse to the plan, a benefit that is not offered to unmarried couples. Most employers also extend bereavement leave to close relatives of your spouse and allow family leave to care for your spouse in the event they become ill or disabled.
Marriage also gives you the right to sue on behalf of your spouse and gives you visiting rights if your spouse is in jail or the intensive care unit at a hospital. You cannot be called to testify against your spouse as most states have laws protecting your conversations as privileged.
If you do divorce, you are automatically entitled to a share in the community property, barring of course, any prenuptial or postnuptial agreement. Even in the event that there is a “prenup” or “postnup” in place, most states still treat alimony (also called spousal support) as a separate issue – meaning it can’t be waived in a prenup.
The spouse has the right to make funeral and burial arrangements, consent to any after-death procedures and grant or refuse any bestowments to friends and family members, assuming they do not conflict with a legal will.
A married couple can also file tax returns jointly and are given the ability to create family partnerships to address business income. In addition, self-employed individuals can extend investing opportunities to their spouse through an individual 401(k), a benefit not afforded to unmarried couples or registered domestic partnerships.