A gentleman came in to probate his wife’s estate. This can be a difficult time in anyone’s life, losing a loved one. We discussed the necessary issues of the medical bills, the final arrangements and how the funeral was paid for, all of which were fairly predictable. Then I asked him how long he and his wife had been married.

“We never actually got married. We always said that it was just a piece of paper.”

I then had to break the news to him that his partner’s estate, which all passed to him through her Last Will & Testament, would be taxed, not at the zero percent rate of husband and wife, but at the highest rate of 15%. An estate of $500,000 (a house and some savings) will generate an inheritance tax bill of $75,000.

While the emotional loss is great, this news about a substantial tax bill was “insult to injury.” It is important to realize this result when making the decision to not be legally married. Clearly, there are moral and ethical discussions concerning the need to be legally married. This story is simply meant to educate the reader that there are financial ramifications to being legally married.