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Understanding Domestic Partnership in Massachusetts

Marriage isn’t for everyone. However, some couples find that they don't receive the same benefits that Massachusetts offers to those who are married. This can be frustrating for those who are committed to each other but have no social desire or religious obligation to marry. While it is not the same as marriage, a domestic partnership can be a great legal alternative to couples who live together.

What is Domestic Partnership in Massachusetts?

A domestic partnership is very similar to marriage. It can apply to couples who are not married but live together. Domestic partnerships provide some legal benefits that married couples enjoy. In some states, domestic partnership is also known as a civil union.

Domestic partnerships in MA include the following legal benefits:

  • Hospital visitation rights
  • Family healthcare coverage
  • Correctional facility visitation rights
  • Access to a dependent child’s school records
  • The right to remove a child from school for emergencies
  • Bereavement leave
  • Sick leave to care for a partner
  • Shared employment benefits from a partner

Requirements for MA Domestic Partnership

Those who register for domestic partnership must be over the age of 18 and unmarried. To make a domestic partnership official, the relationship must be declared at a courthouse or government office. If a relationship ends, those in a domestic partnership must inform the government.

Other requirements for a domestic partnership in MA include the following:

  • The couple shares living expenses
  • The couple is responsible for the well-being of each other and any dependents
  • Both parties are mentally capable of entering into a contract
  • Both parties do not have a domestic partnership with someone else already

If you are not certain if a domestic partnership is right for you, call an experienced family law attorney from Miller Law Group, P.C. today. We’re ready to help you decide if a domestic partnership will benefit your living situation.

Domestic Partnership vs. Marriage: Tax Implications in Massachusetts

Understanding the financial implications of a domestic partnership in comparison to marriage is crucial for couples in Massachusetts. While domestic partnerships afford many privileges similar to those of a married couple, the tax implications are notably different.

Tax Benefits and Responsibilities

When it comes to taxes, the federal government does not recognize domestic partnerships as it does marriage. This distinction leads to several significant differences in the way partners file and the benefits they may or may not receive:

  • Filing Status: Domestic partners must file their taxes separately as single individuals, even if they share finances and live together. Unlike married couples, they cannot file jointly or claim spousal benefits.
  • Health Insurance: If one partner is covered under the other’s health insurance plan, the non-employee may have to pay taxes on the coverage's value. For married couples, employer-provided health insurance for a spouse is generally not considered taxable income.
  • Estate Taxes: In Massachusetts, domestic partners do not have the same rights as married couples regarding estate tax. A surviving domestic partner may not automatically inherit the deceased partner's assets tax-free, unlike in a marriage where the surviving spouse can often do so.
  • Gift Taxes: The federal gift tax exemption that applies to gifts between spouses does not apply to domestic partners. This means if one partner gives substantial financial gifts to the other, they may be subject to the federal gift tax.

Estate Planning for Domestic Partners

Given the tax nuances, domestic partners in Massachusetts should consider comprehensive estate planning to ensure their assets are distributed according to their wishes. This may include:

Wills and Trusts: To bypass the lack of automatic inheritance rights, domestic partners should create wills and trusts that outline the desired distribution of assets.

Powers of Attorney: Establishing durable powers of attorney for finances and healthcare can allow partners to make important decisions for each other in the case of incapacitation.

Beneficiary Designations: Reviewing and updating beneficiary designations on retirement accounts and life insurance policies is essential to ensure they align with current wishes.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does Massachusetts recognize domestic partnerships?

Yes. Massachusetts allows any couple to register for domestic partnership if they meet certain requirements. Requirements for domestic partnership can be viewed in the section above that lists them.

How do I register a domestic partnership in Massachusetts?

If you meet the requirements for a domestic partnership, filing for one is usually a simple process. Essentially, obtaining a domestic partnership requires filling out a form, paying the required fees, and taking your information to a nearby city hall. Fees and requirements vary by city, so be certain to verify your area’s requirements by calling your local city hall.

Is domestic partnership the same as being married?

No. While a domestic partnership provides some of the benefits that married couples enjoy, it is not the same as being married. Marriages are recognized in all states while most domestic partnerships are only recognized in the state that one was obtained. Additionally, domestic partners are not legally considered as family. So, unlike married couples, a person in a domestic partnership will not inherit their partner’s assets in the event of death. Instead, they will have to make sure they have a will that will provide assets to each other if a member of a domestic partnership were to die.

Can you end a domestic partnership in MA?

Yes. A domestic partnership can be terminated in Massachusetts by filling out a domestic partner termination form. If assets and children are part of a domestic partnership, former couples might need the assistance of a family law firm to work through the process. You can learn more about ending a domestic partnership by reading this blog.

What is common law marriage in MA?

Common law marriage is a legal term that describes couples who act like a married couple but have not gone through the process of marriage. In many states, couples who live with each other for a certain amount of time qualify for common law marriage. However, Massachusetts does allow couples to use common law marriage unless they’ve obtained it in another state. Find out more about common law marriage in the state by reading our blog about the subject.

Seek Professional Guidance

Navigating the tax implications of a domestic partnership versus marriage can be complex. Partners are encouraged to consult with a tax professional or a family law attorney specializing in domestic partnerships. The team at Miller Law Group, P.C. has the expertise to guide you through the process and help you make informed decisions about your partnership and its financial and legal considerations.

For personalized advice and a clear understanding of how your domestic partnership may affect your tax situation in Massachusetts, reach out to Miller Law Group, P.C.. Our skilled attorneys can provide strategic planning tailored to your unique circumstances and ensure that you and your partner are well-prepared for the future.

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