Author Topic: domestic partnership questions  (Read 7809 times)

thrifted

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domestic partnership questions
« on: September 07, 2013, 01:15:48 PM »
my partner and i are planning to register as domestic partners in new york.  i was wondering if there are any other heterosexual couples that have debated between domestic partners vs. marriage vs. none of the above on a financial, practical level.

i work at a university and as a domestic partnership we qualify for a number of benefits:
health, dental, and vision insurance
sick and bereavement leave
accident and life insurance
death benefits
parental leave (for a child you coparent)
housing rights and tuition reduction (at universities), and
use of recreational facilities.

we have lived together for 11 years, and have been in a relationship for 17 years total.  we are beneficiaries on one another's retirement accounts, share household expenses/an address/bank accounts/credit card accounts.  i don't have a will... yet. marriage is something we've  decided against for a long time as it held very little meaning to us for years.  we started to change our tune after both being hospitalized at separate times over the past 5 years.  i sincerely fear that since we aren't married or domestic partners, we'd lose the right to see each other in the hospital.

i have a chronic illness so the odds of me being hospitalized again are probably higher than most people.  i am very proactive about dealing with my illness and compliant with dr's orders so i still find it unlikely.

any advice you could give would be great!

http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/domestic-partnership-benefits-29916.html

KMMK

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Re: domestic partnership questions
« Reply #1 on: September 07, 2013, 01:35:40 PM »
Sorry, no personal experience, but I wanted to ask - what is the difference between marriage and domestic partners? From what you describe it sounds exactly the same.

Frankies Girl

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Re: domestic partnership questions
« Reply #2 on: September 07, 2013, 02:50:32 PM »
Getting married would solve all your problems, so not sure what your objections are to doing so. You certainly don't have to go to any major expense or fuss just to ensure there is no question about legal rights or inheritance issues.

I don't mean to sound judgmental or anything as I'm sure you must have reasons for not getting married; just seems to me that a legal marriage is the simplest and most practical route to what you want as it would encompass everything you could possibly think of (and lots that you haven't).

Simple Abundant Living

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Re: domestic partnership questions
« Reply #3 on: September 07, 2013, 03:20:00 PM »
Getting married would solve all your problems, so not sure what your objections are to doing so. You certainly don't have to go to any major expense or fuss just to ensure there is no question about legal rights or inheritance issues.

I don't mean to sound judgmental or anything as I'm sure you must have reasons for not getting married; just seems to me that a legal marriage is the simplest and most practical route to what you want as it would encompass everything you could possibly think of (and lots that you haven't).
+1
Exactly what I was thinking. OP and partner seem committed for life. The cost of a marriage license is an easy way to settle questions of inheritance, benefits, and visiting rights.

SnackDog

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Re: domestic partnership questions
« Reply #4 on: September 07, 2013, 03:38:55 PM »
If you are both working, DP can help avoid the marriage tax. DP can also potentially allow division of assets which can be useful to keep them clear of judgements. Marriage has many benefits, which you well know, regarding assorted government considerations.

LowER

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Re: domestic partnership questions
« Reply #5 on: September 07, 2013, 04:41:20 PM »
As a doc for over a decade, I have never even seen a hint of an SO not being allowed to see or stay with their partner in the hospital (and I'm in at least one hospital every day ans some days 5 hospitals and have worked in probably 20 hospitals since and during training), and I can't even imagine it happening or who would ever enforce such an absurd notion. I certainly wouldn't. 

Not wanting to get divorced is a great reason to not get married.  There's nothing like having your previously intimate relationship become the subject of courtroom fodder and then potentially write monthly checks to someone who hates you, for the rest of your life (not until retirement!), and then some if the court makes you purchase life insurance and make them the beneficiary.  Neither happened to me, but I have friends who have had to do both.

If the income and asset disparity is much, I'd think twice about it.  Divorce can be BRUTAL!

neoptolemus412

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Re: domestic partnership questions
« Reply #6 on: September 07, 2013, 04:55:32 PM »
I've been in a relationship for 15+ years and never married.  I made the decision not to do a domestic partnership or get married.   My partner and I keep everything separate.  However, we both have successful careers, good insurance options, and are financially well of.  A domestic partnership adds some benefits, but I would think about marriage if you have medical issues and have concerns about your partner if you are gone.     

Big thoughts. 

Marriage or DP:
In your case, I would think about marriage, unless you have some moral objection.  You live together, have commingled funds, and mainly married without the legal standing.  A domestic partnership may help in most of the smaller life things (insurance coverages primarily).  However, if you have a medical issue, marriage will aid you in death more so than a domestic partnership.  Your partner will have more rights and be able to better care for you.

Will & Trusts
Why don't you have a will?  This is much more important than a domestic partnership or marriage.  I would set up a will & living revocable trust since you aren't married.  If you intend to live similar to a married couple, it makes sense to have wills/trusts for one another, children, or other loved ones.

Life Insurance
Insurance: Life insurance is a big issue.  I don't know your condition or insurability.  However, you guys should consider term if you are financially dependent upon one another.  It makes sense to have 10x your income in term for the surviving party, so they can make the transition easier.

Taxes:
The marriage penalty is real.  If your combined incomes reach over $150K and you don't have kids, you will most likely pay more taxes combined than separate. 

Divorce
I've dealt with domestic partnership separations and they are a nightmare.  I would consider marriage for the simple fact that it clearly defines your relationship, assets, and rights in the eyes of the law.  17 years of a relationship would be enough ammunition for each of you to make claims on the other's assets in a separation.  May not happen if you break up, but I would get married at this point for no other reason than making it legal. 

Children
If you have children or plan on it, marriage makes parental rights much easier.  Same with adoption.  I wouldn't do a DP if I was considering children as it adds an unnecessary layer of complexity. 

Lastly, if you guys plan on a DP, I would get the will & trust documents set beforehand.  They are much more of a priority than defining your relationship. 


CeciliaW

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Re: domestic partnership questions
« Reply #7 on: September 07, 2013, 05:11:07 PM »
Lots of reasonable advice above. I wonder if you aren't already considered legally married if you are in California, but I am not a lawyer.

Personally, I have no desire to ever marry again. I've been married twice and it doesn't suit me. My Sweetie and I have been together for 13 years, bought a house together 9 years ago and we keep our incomes separate and share household expenses.

That way if he wants to spend an ungodly sum on something I don't care. Likewise if I have something that I've decided is worth the money, he doesn't care, as long as the basics are covered.

I won't marry again because no matter how much you've talked it through beforehand, the minute you sign those papers all the expectations change.

This way I am with him because I want to be, not because I have to be.

Good Luck on your Adventure!

bogart

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Re: domestic partnership questions
« Reply #8 on: September 07, 2013, 07:43:37 PM »
I know my employer recently circulated information about the recent Court decision and its impact on federal taxes -- basically, that legally married same-sex couples would now have rights the same as legally married opposite-sex ones WRT to the taxability of health insurance benefits (my employer provides them to married couples and domestic partners and has only recently been able to offer the same pre-tax benefits to spouses regardless of same/opposite sex status, but only if they are legally married, this isn't available to domestic partners.  As I understand it that's the federal law, not employer policy, so presumably would also apply in your case regardless of your employer).  So that's a biggie that may or may not be relevant to your situation.

The other one that occurs to me is Social Security benefits; with a spouse, you can maximize those benefits by collecting early on one person's record and then later (with higher benefits) on the other's.  How well that works is a function of earnings, ages and age differences, and so forth, so it may or may not have much value for you, but it's something to consider (and those married for 10+ years who hten divorce but don't remarry also have rights to collect SS based on the former spouse's work record, so that can be a value even after divorce, just to touch on an issue raised up-thread). 

You mention being beneficiaries of each others' retirement accounts; I'm pretty sure that the tax-privileged status of accounts like 403bs and IRAs is more protected when they pass from one spouse to another than when they pass to someone the law would label a non-relative, i.e., a domestic partner.

Other than that, I can't think of much.  I'm not clear whether you're in a same-sex or opposite-sex couple, but I do know I've never been asked to prove e.g. that I am really my husband's wife when he's required medical care, or my father's daughter either (the latter example is more relevant to the question of being challenged in that my dad's been admitted in circumstances where he couldn't confirm or deny my claim that I was his daughter).  I think those kinds of circumstances arise when (a) there is another family member (e.g. child, parent) who objects to the partner's role in the sick person's life and can push medical care providers to object, and/or (b) cases where medical care providers (or administrators) object to something about the partnership, e.g., if it's same-sex, and there aren't legal protections to back up the couple's rights. 

djulian529

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Re: domestic partnership questions
« Reply #9 on: September 08, 2013, 11:33:00 AM »
Personally, I am in the same situation.  My partner and I don't see a need to be married.  We don't begrudge anyone who wants to, but we don't see the purpose for us.  I would like to congratulate you on your 17 year relationship.  My partner and I just celebrated 4 years last month. 

In regards to your concerns about hospital visitation, there is a form, you can find it on the Human Rights Campain Website http://www.hrc.org/resources/entry/hospital-visitation-authorization that you can use for such concerns. 

For those who want to say simply just go get married, remember, that is still not an easy thing for same sex couples in our Country. 

thrifted

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Re: domestic partnership questions
« Reply #10 on: September 08, 2013, 11:44:52 AM »
neoptolemus412 - wow!! someone in exactly the same boat.  congrats on your 15+ year relationship!  i know what work it takes (not necessarily hard work, but definitely takes an effort) to keep a relationship going strong.  your advise is so invaluable. thank you thank you thank you.

for a long time, we kept everything separate.  when i started to earn more and he became a student, that all changed. more and more, accounts became joint.  i know with marriage you inherit debt.  he is not a mustachian, though he is now fully aware of the term hehe.  and he has no plans to be a mustachian.  so our financial priorities are very different.  in a retirement sense, we're worlds apart.  i am putting 20% salary towards retirement (including employer match) and currently have $40K. the plan is to retire at 50.  he has no retirement account.  i am almost debt free and have only a $10K student loan left, which I'm paying down with minimum payments.  he has $60K in student loans and $6K in credit card debt.

i'll get on a will and trust right away. 

we purchased life insurance together ages ago.  it is a term plan i think.  i would not be insurable now.  i also have additional life insurance from my new job (you don't have to be pre-approved if the plan is for less than $150K).

one plus to domestic partnership is the ease of divorce vs. marriage.

we have no plans for kids, biological, adopted, foster. 

bogart - we are an opposite-sex couple. the recent court decision was something i failed to mention but i'm intrigued to see that your employer quite quickly educated the staff about the ramifications of it. tax implications could be the deal breaker for marriage vs. not.

ceciliaw - thanks for sharing your personal experience.  a lot of my married friends find it bewildering that we aren't married.  and friends who have yet to be married or engaged or anything like that are even more critical.  thats their opinion.  california does not have common law marriage, so unlike other states where if we say we're husband and wife, we're just partners in a nonlegal sense.  well technically we're single.  i did file as head of household last tax season, though. 

lower - :) thanks for the insight.  how relieving!

snackdog - thanks! i purchased a book about nonmarriage from amazon and will share any insights it might have here.

crazyfun - talking about marriage - its hard not to sound judgemental.  but i catch your drift.  what benefits has marriage had on your relationship?

frankies girl - domestic partnership is entirely new to me (we didn't have it in california and i just moved to ny), it would be best to get all the facts and figures laid out before i could comfortably say that marriage is simple or the answer.  since you're married and fi already (congratulations!!) i was wondering what the benefits of marriage are for your situation?

kestra - domestic partnership as far as i know was created for same-sex couples.  with doma ruled unconstitutional, i wasn't sure how domestic partnerships are not treated.

Simple Abundant Living

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Re: domestic partnership questions
« Reply #11 on: September 08, 2013, 02:19:28 PM »
crazyfun - talking about marriage - its hard not to sound judgemental.  but i catch your drift.  what benefits has marriage had on your relationship?

Sorry, I didn't mean to be judgmental. To answer your question, my marriage is THE most important thing in my life. It's hard to imagine my life if we had not gotten married, but simply cohabitated. I personally think it might not have lasted all these years. Life is hard, and people and situations are always in flux. We made a commitment 21 years ago to stick it out, and that's what we are doing.  When we met, we were on equal terms financially as broke college students. That has changed as I chose to stay home and raise our kids and he became the sole breadwinner.  I appreciate my DH saw my contributions were as real and tangible as his. I'm now getting ready to go do my graduate work and start my career.   Our roles and expectations of each other change as the need arises.  We have been through a lot, including caring for a very sick child and the stress and worry that goes with that.  We work at our relationship to make sure nothing else comes before it. It's hard with kids, but eventually the kids leave, and I don't want to be married to a stranger when the nest is empty.

My perspective is probably vastly different than yours, as you are not planning to have a family. But I am a proponent of marriage. If domestic partnership was as good, why are gays fighting for marriage?  Maybe that's who you should ask. Someone who wants all the benefits and recognition of marriage, but it is denied them. Ask them why marriage and not domestic partnership?

Sunflower

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Re: domestic partnership questions
« Reply #12 on: September 08, 2013, 05:08:05 PM »
As a doc for over a decade, I have never even seen a hint of an SO not being allowed to see or stay with their partner in the hospital (and I'm in at least one hospital every day ans some days 5 hospitals and have worked in probably 20 hospitals since and during training), and I can't even imagine it happening or who would ever enforce such an absurd notion. I certainly wouldn't. 

My cousin ended up registering for domestic partnership after she was rushed into emergency surgery and her partner wasn't given any updates during the surgery or allowed to see her after when he answered truthfully that they weren't married. Granted, this is only one example and they were both around 24 y.o. at the time (I assume it wouldn't have happened if they were much older), but you can definitely be denied access at the hospital.

LowER

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Re: domestic partnership questions
« Reply #13 on: September 08, 2013, 05:33:19 PM »
As a doc for over a decade, I have never even seen a hint of an SO not being allowed to see or stay with their partner in the hospital (and I'm in at least one hospital every day ans some days 5 hospitals and have worked in probably 20 hospitals since and during training), and I can't even imagine it happening or who would ever enforce such an absurd notion. I certainly wouldn't. 

My cousin ended up registering for domestic partnership after she was rushed into emergency surgery and her partner wasn't given any updates during the surgery or allowed to see her after when he answered truthfully that they weren't married. Granted, this is only one example and they were both around 24 y.o. at the time (I assume it wouldn't have happened if they were much older), but you can definitely be denied access at the hospital.

If anyone out there experiences anything like what's quoted above, ask to speak to the charge nurse, the floor supervisor, the doctor, and then ask for the CEO, and let them know you will be holding a press conference at the front entrance of the hospital, in front of the hospital sign, telling the local news how this hospital treats its patients and their loved ones. 

I know it's hard to question the system that's taking care of your loved one in an emergency, but that behavior is egregious and actionable, and just because they seem cloistered behind their degrees and big closed doors, the huge majority of healthcare providers loathe controversy, and bad publicity, especially when it's potentially going to be broadcasted to their bosses and their neighbors and patients. 

On the other hand, if that person was hospitalized for injuries caused by domestic violence or probable domestic violence, I could see why nobody would be too excited to talk to the probable perpetrator, married or not.
« Last Edit: September 08, 2013, 05:35:07 PM by LowER »

Simple Abundant Living

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Re: domestic partnership questions
« Reply #14 on: September 08, 2013, 06:15:32 PM »
As a doc for over a decade, I have never even seen a hint of an SO not being allowed to see or stay with their partner in the hospital (and I'm in at least one hospital every day ans some days 5 hospitals and have worked in probably 20 hospitals since and during training), and I can't even imagine it happening or who would ever enforce such an absurd notion. I certainly wouldn't. 

My cousin ended up registering for domestic partnership after she was rushed into emergency surgery and her partner wasn't given any updates during the surgery or allowed to see her after when he answered truthfully that they weren't married. Granted, this is only one example and they were both around 24 y.o. at the time (I assume it wouldn't have happened if they were much older), but you can definitely be denied access at the hospital.

If anyone out there experiences anything like what's quoted above, ask to speak to the charge nurse, the floor supervisor, the doctor, and then ask for the CEO, and let them know you will be holding a press conference at the front entrance of the hospital, in front of the hospital sign, telling the local news how this hospital treats its patients and their loved ones. 

I know it's hard to question the system that's taking care of your loved one in an emergency, but that behavior is egregious and actionable, and just because they seem cloistered behind their degrees and big closed doors, the huge majority of healthcare providers loathe controversy, and bad publicity, especially when it's potentially going to be broadcasted to their bosses and their neighbors and patients. 

On the other hand, if that person was hospitalized for injuries caused by domestic violence or probable domestic violence, I could see why nobody would be too excited to talk to the probable perpetrator, married or not.

What if a life and death decision needed to be made?  Even when there is a living will, there is always the interpretation of those wishes in the circumstance.  How does HIPAA play into that?

NeverWasACornflakeGirl

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Re: domestic partnership questions
« Reply #15 on: September 09, 2013, 05:32:03 AM »
If domestic partnership was as good, why are gays fighting for marriage?  Maybe that's who you should ask. Someone who wants all the benefits and recognition of marriage, but it is denied them. Ask them why marriage and not domestic partnership?

Thanks for bringing this up!  My female partner and I have been together for 22 years, have an 8-year-old daughter, and live in PA, where the law does not allow for same-sex marriage (we were married in our church, though, so we refer to each other as "spouses" even though we have no legal standing).  I think some of the reason for wanting marriage equality is just wanting equality, period.  It's rough when you've been with your spouse for 22 years, but somehow your relationship is still "less than" one of the Kardashians who was married for a couple of months, or Britney Spears and her friend who were married in Vegas and had it anulled days later.

Having said that, there are many legal and financial reasons my spouse and I would like to be legally married.  A lot of them have already been covered above, and, if you get some good books on the topic, I'm sure you'll uncover more.  In general, not being married means that we have had to spend a lot of time and money on legal documents and court proceedings.  We've had to have financial and healthcare power of attorney documents drawn up.  We had to go to court so that my spouse could legally adopt our daughter (I was the one who gave birth to her), and we were lucky to be able to do so.  In Ohio you cannot do a "second parent adoption" where the second parent is the same sex as the first parent (there are many other states like this).  As domestic partners, if your partner gets healthcare coverage from your employer, you have to pay income tax on the value of the premiums.  In the case of death, you have to pay estate taxes, you do not get your domestic partner's social security, and if your employer is not proactive you have to pay taxes on your 401k inheritance.

Our families have always treated our relationship well, but that is not the case for many gay couples, and, if one member of the couple becomes incapacitated, and there is no healthcare power of attorney, the incapacitated partner's family can swoop in and take over.  This can and does happen (see the case of Sharon Kowalski).

Now that DOMA has been struck down we can get married in another state and at least have the federal benefits of marriage, but we still don't have the state benefits.

Good luck, whatever your decision!

ace1224

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Re: domestic partnership questions
« Reply #16 on: September 09, 2013, 08:06:28 AM »
we have been together for almost 11 years and we are not married.  we have some joint accounts and some separate accounts.  we have a child and a house and 3 dogs together. 
we aren't getting married and i don't even want a domestic partnership.  for me personally it wouldn't change anything people get divorced and people break up regardless of being married or not. 
the only only reason i would even consider it is because my stupid state doesn't recognize "civil unions" and when it comes to domestic violence and kids the only way i could keep him away from his dad if his dad was an abuser (which he isn't)  is if we were married.  but since he isn't violent in any way, and i've never had to deal with that its not a problem.

i get that some people are really into marriage, but for me its always seemed unnecessary. if my partner really wanted to i would probably do it to make him happy, but we haven't felt the need.

thrifted

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Re: domestic partnership questions
« Reply #17 on: September 09, 2013, 10:27:31 PM »
crazyfun what i meant to say was how does marriage benefit your financial independence?  it sounds like you take the more traditional approach for reasons for why you are married.  thanks for your input though.  its nice to hear what a positive impact being married has had on your relationship with your husband.  as divorce may have proven, thats not necessarily the case.

trina thank you so much for your honesty and insight.  there are a lot of rights i realized i didn't have only when i realized that i needed them.  they are basic rights and central to equality.  and its not just as a parent.  it is frustrating that i need to go to city hall to exercise my rights as a partner.  for me and my boyfriend of 17 years to be recognized.  i always find it a little blind and borderline offensive when people say - just get married, its not a big deal.  its a big decision that i hope people take more seriously - not just the kardashians and britneys of the world - but everyone.  i bought a book about all this nonmarriage mumbo jumbo from amazon as a starter. 

ace1224 its nice to see someone in a similar boat.  its interesting that you bring up domestic violence.  its an issue that has run through my family for my generations and thankfully i was able to break the cycle personally.  i have a sister though that was not and it was eye opening having to figure out how to navigate the legal system.  she was not married but she protected her partner (classic psychological cycle of abuse in play) and not once was he arrested for beating her.  he even beat her in public at a bus stop!  yikes!! 


Simple Abundant Living

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Re: domestic partnership questions
« Reply #18 on: September 10, 2013, 02:58:57 PM »
crazyfun what i meant to say was how does marriage benefit your financial independence?  it sounds like you take the more traditional approach for reasons for why you are married.  thanks for your input though.  its nice to hear what a positive impact being married has had on your relationship with your husband.  as divorce may have proven, thats not necessarily the case! 

Theres financial independence(FI) and being financially independent. I am currently neither. One of the points I was making was that our relationship has given me financial security at a time of financial dependence (SAHM). Not every married couple has their finances this way, but it's the only way I could have stayed home with the kids. If we had felt differently about finances (his and hers), I probably would have continued on to law school and who knows about having children? Of course, I would be a different person and our relationship would be very different as well.  By agreeing on shared values and priorities, our situation works. Being married also gives me security knowing that if he left me, the law would recognize my contributions as also equal.   You mentioned having medical issues. It's great to be independent of each other, but how does that dynamic change if you had to cut back or stop working for a while?  I know that if either of us had to quit work due to illness,the other would do whatever we had to to provide for our family. Right now, my dh is not a mustachian, but he is moving toward that direction because he sees it's important to me. It's not perfect and there continues to be give and take. Good luck!

thrifted

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Re: domestic partnership questions
« Reply #19 on: September 10, 2013, 07:53:02 PM »
crazyfun its interesting.  for about the first 5 years, we were fairly independent financially.  when we moved in together, we contributed about 50/50 to the household bills. then he lost his job, i got a promotion, he went to school. who knows - maybe marriage would have caused vast changes in our relationship in terms of how we managed money.
now looking forward, we've settled on our careers.  mine happens to be the stable, 9-5 job with excellent benefits.  his is art. 

thrifted

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Re: domestic partnership questions
« Reply #20 on: January 07, 2015, 05:04:02 PM »
Update: we decided to file for domestic partnership with my employer in the sense that we qualify for joint benefits.  we're testing it out and so far the tax implications were a lot more than we expected.  post tax deductions increased by $150/mo but taxes increased by $250/mo because the employer contribution is taxable. 

i also signed up for legal coverage so i'll be getting the will taken care of this year.  my boyfriend is very much against marriage whereas i'm leaning towards indifferent.  it could be a good thing or a bad thing depending on what we make of it.  and we don't have to tell a soul. it could just be a piece of paper haha.

i know a lot of people who firmly believe marriage is not only important but necessary.  i've seen a lot of marriages fail even when they do last so i'm not coming from the view that marriage is the answer to our situation.  i respect my boyfriend's choices and don't mind the workarounds or what have you. 

we may be leaving the states in the coming years.  now that i know the cost of domestic partnership union on my paycheck, i'm going to look at affordable healthcare options and really compare.  i lazily assumed that having insurance was better than nothing but here not all insurance is equal.  so shopping around is really going to require a tax expert. 

Static Void

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Re: domestic partnership questions
« Reply #21 on: January 07, 2015, 05:18:54 PM »
Another CA couple here. We shacked up for love (11 years ago), but got married for money (4 years ago).

Made the decision when we took inventory of our assets and goals, including post-work-lifestyle-asap. Our finances were already somewhat commingled, but now we are closely coordinating on everything. Definitely have saved a few tens of $K in taxes (income disparity). Also ok excuse for a (fun and frugal) party.