Marriage – A thing of the past?

2013, the year in which the world finally realises it’s in the 21st century and almost everything and everyone takes on a more modern approach to everyday life.
Technology is booming, people are becoming more accepting of ‘different’, but one thing which is both changing drastically and not changing at all is marriage.

Almost 40% of marriages in the UK end in divorce, but does this mean that we should simply stop getting married in order to save ourselves the hassle of going through solicitors, signing papers, possible custody battles and all the rest? Would it not be easier to simply ‘break up’?

According to the Telegraph, fewer people are getting married now anyway, in 2011 the number of married people had fallen to 20.4 million, which seems like a lot, right? Compared to a decade ago, that is almost 200,000 less people saying ‘I do’.

It seems that Britain has fallen out of love with marriage. More and more couples are simply living together, having children and growing old together whilst avoiding paying for a wedding (which is understandable, weddings are expensive, but marriage pays for itself in the long run – more on that later.)
However, I can’t help but feel that we are beginning to take marriage for granted. They say that ‘every little girl dreams of their wedding day’. I never did, but I do want to get married someday, and evidently so do thousands of people on the LGBT spectrum, of which the majority don’t have the opportunity to do so. How can we disregard something which so many people wish they could have?

Marriage has a lot of benefits, especially financially. (I won’t go in to the whole ‘respectability’ side of it. I don’t think a relationship should be held at a higher standard than anyone else’s simply because it’s a marriage.) Inheritance can cause a lot of problems for couples who cohabit but are not married – Couples living together who own property and other assets with a combined value of more than £650,000 face an inheritance tax (IHT) charge if one of them dies.  It turns out unmarried partners can only pass assets up to the nil-rate band of £325,000 free of death duties. Sums above that attract an IHT of 40%, presenting families with a few problems in the event of death.
Anything left to a spouse or civil partner, on the other hand, is exempt from IHT. The partner is allowed to “inherit” the full £650,000 which can be passed to, for example, children on the death of the surviving partner.
Also, if the deceased partner did not write a will prior to their death, the other cannot inherit anything from them, no matter how long they lived together or if they had children together – so those of you unmarried folk may want to get writing.
Getting married also means paying less tax! We are all taxed individually, but married couples are given a bit of leeway in arranging finances to reduce the family tax bill. This means that married couples can reduce the income tax paid on savings, investments, or rental property if one spouse pays less tax than the other.

If this is the case, then assets can be switched so they are owned by the lower-earning spouse. So, if one spouse is a 40% taxpayer and the other does not earn, and if savings are held by the non-earner, they can’t be taxed on the interest.

But it’s not all about money – marriage in its current form has a little bit of tradition and a little bit of modern value mixed into it. Marriage as it stands now was only really invented 12 years ago, and these days the more common method of marriage is through a civil ceremony rather than through religion. While some may believe that a marriage is not ‘official’ unless it is performed before God, others may say that marriage has nothing to do with religion, but more to do with two individuals loving each other unconditionally, respectfully, and wanting to spend the rest of their lives together.

Once again, I return to the state of marriage equality rights. Modern marriage does not involve religion, and so same-sex marriages should not be banned in any modern country, thankfully, the legalisation of same-sex marriages is on the rise. If marriage is so outdated, why would hundreds of thousands of people be fighting for the ability to get married at all?
Some may say that marriage is nothing but a ‘piece of paper’ and that it doesn’t prove anything, especially with the current divorce rate, but to me, personally, marriage shows commitment and determination to pull through difficulties – no marriage is perfect, but not all need to end badly, or at all.

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7 thoughts on “Marriage – A thing of the past?

  1. Your economic points, especially regarding IHT and income taxes, are I think the reason that people still get married today – with religion becoming less common in society, some people only get married for these economic benefits. It’s unfair that people living together suffer economically compared with people living together with a piece of paper saying they will continue to live together, but at least that piece of paper is becoming easier to obtain than it once was.

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