What are the Legal Benefits of Being Married?

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Updated 31/12/2021

For many people, getting married is a way of showing commitment to their partner and is often seen as the natural next step in a romantic relationship. But being married also brings a number of legal benefits.

While the legal benefits of marriage are rarely the reason for a couple tying the knot, it’s important to think about their financial implications for your future.

If you need initial advice, one of our expert Family Law Solicitors will be happy to help you.

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We’ve outlined below just a few of the benefits that come with being married in England and Wales.

Inheritance Rights

Married couples have an automatic right to a partner’s estate when they die under the Rules of Intestacy, which apply if the partner who died didn’t leave a Will.

If you’re married and have children, there will be limits on how much your husband or wife can receive. But if you’re unmarried, the Rules of Intestacy won’t recognise your relationship unless it was outlined in a Will.

Parental Responsibility

Parental Responsibility involves certain rights and powers around making decisions affecting your child, these include:

  • Choosing where your child goes to school
  • Consenting to medical treatment or accessing medical records
  • Taking your child abroad
  • Deciding the religion your child should be brought up in

The most common ways for fathers to get parental responsibility for a child include being married to the mother when the baby is born or being named on the birth certificate.

Step-parents don’t automatically have parental responsibility. They can get it by agreement or with a court order.

Marriage Tax Breaks

One of the tax benefits available to married couples is the Marriage Allowance. To qualify, one partner must be a non-taxpayer and the other a basic rate taxpayer.

If you don’t pay tax, you can apply to transfer 10 percent of your personal tax allowance through HMRC and your partner will get a tax credit equivalent. This allowance only needs to be applied for once and will transfer automatically every tax year.

Married couples also benefit from not having to pay Inheritance Tax. For instance, if your partner died and left their whole Estate to you, you could claim any money and assets without any direct tax consequences.

Joint Ownership of Assets

If you decide to get married, it’s likely you’ll make joint purchases and investments with your partner such as buying a house or opening a savings account.

In the event of separation, being married means that assets can usually be divided in a way that is “fair” and takes into accounts both partners’ needs and the needs of their children. A Financial Settlement can be reached by an agreement between you as a couple, negotiation through solicitors, arbitration or through a court application.

If you’re concerned by the idea of sharing assets, you can set out what would happen if you ever were to separate in a Prenuptial or a Postnuptial Agreement. While this is not the first thing most people think about when getting married, these agreements can give additional security to both partners, so they’re important to consider.

What Is a Cohabitation Agreement? 

Unmarried couples have some options to formalise their relationship, but these are much more limited if you are not married. One way is by entering into a Cohabitation Agreement which will outline what’s expected of each person.

This can include who owns what, who should pay for what and what contribution each person should make to expenses such as mortgage or rent payments.

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