Legal Guide to Getting Married

Are you a newlywed or recently engaged? This guide is for you! Learn all the practicalities about getting married and which legal documents you will need to update, change, or simply toss.

Marriage Certificate

Each State has its own marriage certificate process. Typically, there is a fee associated with obtaining the license to get married. This license must be signed before it becomes a marriage certificate. Typically, after the marriage ceremony, an officiant signs and returns the marriage license to the County that issued it. Once the County records the license, it turns into an official marriage certificate that you and your new spouse will get a copy of via the mail.

This is an important document and you will want to keep it in a safe space. If your marriage certificate is defective due to problems with filing or signatures, most states have methods of perfecting or correcting the defect, but it’s best to check your local rules.

You’ll need a certified copy of your marriage certificate (or the document you receive from your state or county after filling out your marriage license) before changing your name.

Change of Name

Many individuals choose to change some part of their middle or last name when they get married.In order to do so, you will need to notify a variety of state and federal agencies. A good place to start is contacting your local Social Security Administration office to update your Social Security Card.

To do this, you can make an appointment with your local office and fill out the SS-5 form needed to change your name. Bring original copies of your (1) birth certificate, (2) passport, (3) diver’s license, (4) Social Security Card, and (5) your marriage certificate.

After you update your Social Security Card, you can use the new social security Card to change your name on other documents and accounts such as your:

  • drivers license
  • passport
  • voter registration
  • Title and Registration of your car
  • Bank Accounts
  • Employment documents
  • Retirement Accounts
  • Insurance information
  • Credit Cards
  • Memberships (gym, Netflix, hunting club).
  • Social Media Accounts

To update your passport, you will need to get a color passport photo and send that in along with your current passport and a certified copy of your marriage certificate. You may want to request an additional certified copy of your marriage certificate before you apply for a new passport because you have to mail in a certified copy of your marriage certificate and it can take time to get your copy back. (see form DS-82.)

Another great tip is to order new checks, debit cards, and credit cards as soon as possible, because they can take a long time to arrive.

Beneficiary Designation

Even if you don’t change your name, it’s a good idea to look at your beneficiaries on your retirement accounts, life insurance, and any other bank accounts. Consider updating these designations to your spouse.

Taxes as a Married Couple

If you get married at any point in 2016, you are now required to file taxes either as married filing separately (MFS) or married filing jointly (MFJ) for any income you earn in 2016. What this means is that when you go to file taxes before April 2017, you will no longer have the option of filing as a single person.

For most couples filing a tax return as married filing jointly provides a beneficial tax outcome. Married couples filing a joint return can claim two personal exemptions instead of one and can use a standard deduction of $12,400 verses the single taxpayer deduction of $6,200. You can also choose to itemize your deductions for benefits like mortgage interest payments.

Another benefit of getting married this year is that spouses can give each other unlimited gifts without the gift tax limits.

If you and your partner make relatively similar amounts and do not have children, you may be impacted by the marriage tax penalty. It’s important to check with a tax professional when making choices about your filing status.