The benefits of domestic partnership

Ask NJMoneyHelp

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Q. For opposite sex couples, must both be over 62 years old for a domestic partnership? Are there other qualifiers?
— Just curious

A. In New Jersey, domestic partnerships for opposite sex couples apply to unmarried couples who are both age 62 or older, have a common residence, and who share a common, interpersonal domestic life.

That doesn’t mean you have to be romantically involved. Some seniors who are just friends have taken advantage of what a domestic partnership offers.

To qualify, neither partner can be married or be a part of another domestic partnership, said Frani Feit, a certified financial planner with Tradition Capital Management in Summit.

She said an Affidavit of Domestic Partnership must be signed and notarized, and then filed in person with the couple’s Local Registrar of Vital Statistics.

Feit said the rules vary by state so it is important to check with your specific state and employer.

Feit said domestic partnerships provide several benefits to couples, including the right to family leave for a sick partner, the right for visitation in hospitals and jails and the access to coverage on a family health insurance policy.

“As for Social Security, they are now processing `some’ retirement and surviving spouse benefits under the `Non-Marital Legal Relationships’ title,” Feit said, so you should contact Social Security directly.

Feit said because domestic partnerships are not recognized by the federal government, they do not include the ability to file federal tax returns using the married filing jointly or married filing separately status.

Additionally, she said, one partner cannot claim the head of household status if the only dependent is the other partner.

Feit said employer-provided health insurance coverage may be taxable, but it depends if one of the partners can qualify as a tax dependent.

Then for New Jersey inheritance tax purposes, transfers made by will, survivorship or contract to the surviving partner are exempt, Feit said.

“But unlike married partners who can avail themselves of the unlimited marital deduction at the death of the first spouse, the federal estate tax does not have a provision providing a deduction for property passing to a domestic partner,” she said. “A high net worth couple should do some careful estate planning.”

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