Marriage vs. Power of Attorney?
So, I've been following a thread on another messageboard on the Marriage Protection Amendment.
One of the posters there asked this question:
As I've been following the thread the spirit of Zerbie has descended upon me ( ), and I feel compelled to give him a good, well thought out answer to this.
I'm just not sure where to start. Can anyone help?
"Am I late? Did I miss any exposition? "- Willow
No contract can make you next of kin
I think one can start with the fact that only legal marriage can make one next of kin before the law.
If one is not next of kin, one is always at risk that some blood relative will step in with a lawyer and challenge whatever will, power of attorney or other legal document one might have.
There are situations, say in a hospital emergency room, in which saying "this is my husband/wife" opens doors immediately, but where you might otherwise be forced to say, "oh, excuse me, I need to go home and get my copy of the power of attorney, and maybe my lawyer too." I know of one situation where exactly this happened--a woman was denied access to her partner in a hospital emergency room situation and she did not happen to have the power of attorney in her back pocket (who would?)
Yes, it matters.
I knew a couple years ago (both of them strong activist-types advocating for marriage rights) when one of them got severely injured in a sudden freak accident. Her partner rushed to the hospital only to be told she was not family and could not get in to see her. She died there, and they had no chance to say goodbye because of that legal restriction. Just, gone.
And I had a family member lose a home because blood-relatives of his deceased partner took it (it was worth a lot of $, so despite that those relatives hadn't spoken to their relation in 17 years b/c he was gay, *even when he was dying!* they suddenly claimed kinship to get the property.)
I've also heard that there are some states or locales where judges decide that civil contracts other than marriage are insufficient for granting parents custody rights for their children. I don't recall the specifics - you could search for them fairly easily though. I'm pretty sure I got the info from Evan Wolfson's book about why marriage equality is necessary, and not just civil unions.
Benefits of Marriage
Filing joint income tax returns with the IRS and state taxing authorities.
Creating a "family partnership" under federal tax laws, which allows you to divide business income among family members.
Estate Planning Benefits
Inheriting a share of your spouse's estate.
Receiving an exemption from both estate taxes and gift taxes for all property you give or leave to your spouse.
Creating life estate trusts that are restricted to married couples, including QTIP trusts, QDOT trusts, and marital deduction trusts.
Obtaining priority if a conservator needs to be appointed for your spouse -- that is, someone to make financial and/or medical decisions on your spouseís behalf.
Receiving Social Security, Medicare, and disability benefits for spouses.
Receiving veterans' and military benefits for spouses, such as those for education, medical care, or special loans.
Receiving public assistance benefits.
Obtaining insurance benefits through a spouse's employer.
Taking family leave to care for your spouse during an illness.
Receiving wages, workers' compensation, and retirement plan benefits for a deceased spouse.
Taking bereavement leave if your spouse or one of your spouseís close relatives dies.
Visiting your spouse in a hospital intensive care unit or during restricted visiting hours in other parts of a medical facility.
Making medical decisions for your spouse if he or she becomes incapacitated and unable to express wishes for treatment.
Consenting to after-death examinations and procedures.
Making burial or other final arrangements.
Filing for stepparent or joint adoption.
Applying for joint foster care rights.
Receiving equitable division of property if you divorce.
Receiving spousal or child support, child custody, and visitation if you divorce.
Living in neighborhoods zoned for "families only."
Automatically renewing leases signed by your spouse.
Receiving family rates for health, homeowners', auto, and other types of insurance.
Receiving tuition discounts and permission to use school facilities.
Other consumer discounts and incentives offered only to married couples or families.
Other Legal Benefits and Protections
Suing a third person for wrongful death of your spouse and loss of consortium (loss of intimacy).
Suing a third person for offenses that interfere with the success of your marriage, such as alienation of affection and criminal conversation (these laws are available in only a few states).
Claiming the marital communications privilege, which means a court canít force you to disclose the contents of confidential communications between you and your spouse during your marriage.
Receiving crime victims' recovery benefits if your spouse is the victim of a crime.
Obtaining domestic violence protection orders.
Obtaining immigration and residency benefits for noncitizen spouse.
Visiting rights in jails and other places where visitors are restricted to immediate family.