Wedding season is upon us. Last year, 35 percent of marriages occurred between June and September, according to a survey released by online wedding site TheKnot.com.
The 2013 Real Weddings survey also revealed that couples are spending more than ever on their nuptials. The average cost of a wedding (including the engagement ring but excluding the honeymoon) was $29,858 in 2013. Costs vary significantly by geographic location, however. The most expensive place to get married is in New York City’s Manhattan borough, where couples spend an average of $86,916. The least expensive is in the state of Idaho, where the average wedding cost is $16,159.
Beside the costs associated with throwing a dream wedding, there are many other financial issues and administrative tasks to consider before and after you say, “I do.”
Changing Your Name
Here’s the protocol for changing your name after you’re legally wed:
Visit Your Local SSA Office. Notify the Social Security Administration (SSA) after you’re married to protect Social Security benefits and credit ratings. To get a new Social Security card, you need to complete an application for a Social Security card (which is available online) and provide proof of identification with your old and new names, such as a driver’s license and a marriage certificate. If you were born outside the U.S., you also need proof that you are a citizen or legally in the country.
You can apply by mail or by visiting your local Social Security office. But most people apply in person, because you must submit original documents or copies certified by the custodian of the record. The SSA does not accept photocopies, notarized copies or your old Social Security card as evidence of identity. For more information about notifying the SSA, click here or call (800) 772-1213.
Keep IRS Records Up-to-Date. The SSA informs the IRS about name changes, and the tax agency’s records are generally updated 10 days later. If you don’t notify the SSA and file a tax return with your new married name, IRS computers won’t be able to match the new name with the Social Security number.
If you receive a W-2 form with your old name, the IRS asks that you simply cross out the old name and write in the new one, making sure it matches the name listed with the SSA. The last name on the tax return is verified through the SSA. Tell your employer so that future W-2 forms match.
Spread the Word. Once your name is officially changed with the SSA, newlyweds need to share the good news with everyone else. In addition to filling out the proper forms with your employer’s human resource department, here are some other records to update to avoid confusion:
- Driver’s license
- State and local tax records
- Voter’s registration
- Vehicle registration
- Property titles
- Utility records (phone, cell phone, electric, gas, water, garbage, etc.)
- Bank, credit card and brokerage accounts
- Pension and retirement plans
- Insurance policies and beneficiaries
- Medical, dental and pharmacy records
- Email addresses and social media accounts
Blending Your Finances
“For richer or poorer” is part of the traditional wedding vows, but financial disagreements are one of the leading causes of marital problems. So, it’s important to consult with your accountant, tax advisor, banker and lawyer before you tie the knot to get a handle on your financial, tax and estate planning strategies as a joint household. Here’s a checklist of important issues to address:
Candidly discuss joint finances. For example, how much debt are each of you bringing to the marriage? What about savings? How is your credit rating? The older you are, the more (good and bad) financial baggage you’re likely to bring to the partnership.
Decide on joint or separate bank accounts — or both. Your bank representative can walk you through what will be needed to combine checking, savings, and money market accounts. He or she can also advise you about adding beneficiaries on your IRA and more.
Even if you decide to maintain separate accounts, it’s often helpful to have at least one joint account to pay for shared expenses, such as the costs of a mortgage or car, rent, household expenses and childcare. This account is meant strictly for household needs, and it allows you both to keep track of how you are spending money.
A joint account can also help avoid trouble in case one spouse dies. When a spouse or common law partner dies and there are separate accounts, the survivor will be excluded from the other separate account if the estate goes into probate. That could take months.
Coordinate employee benefits. You might save money by eliminating duplicate health care or life insurance coverage, for example. And don’t forget to change beneficiary designations on retirement plans and insurance policies.
Update deeds, wills and power of attorney documents. An attorney can also discuss the full array of estate planning tools, such as various trusts, that might be relevant now that you’re married.
Plan financial goals as a couple. Create an annual budget, as well as a contingency plan in case a spouse gets laid off or becomes disabled. Make sure you have several months’ income saved as an emergency cash reserve. Designate who will be responsible for paying the bills and reconciling the checkbook.
Also look beyond your current financial situation. For example, discuss what you envision your retirement will look like, and whether current retirement account contributions are sufficient to achieve your long-term goals.