Over Age 62? Consider a Domestic Partnership Instead of Getting Married

HNWEstate Planning

  • domestic-partnerIn love with someone but don’t want to get married? There is an alternative to marriage in New Jersey.  It’s called a Domestic Partnership.

In New Jersey, a domestic partnership is created when two people file an Affidavit of Domestic Partnership with the local registrar (generally the municipal clerk) representing to him/her that the couple meets the requirements under N.J.S.A. 26:8A-4 & 4.1:

(1) Both persons have a common residence and are otherwise jointly responsible for each other’s common welfare as evidenced by joint financial arrangements or joint ownership of real or personal property, which shall be demonstrated by at least one of the following:

(a) a joint deed, mortgage agreement or lease;

(b) a joint bank account;

(c) designation of one of the persons as a primary beneficiary in the other person’s will;

(d) designation of one of the persons as a primary beneficiary in the other person’s life insurance policy or retirement plan; or

(e) joint ownership of a motor vehicle;

(2) Both persons agree to be jointly responsible for each other’s basic living expenses during the domestic partnership;

(3) Neither person is in a marriage recognized by New Jersey law or a member of another domestic partnership;

(4) Neither person is related to the other by blood or affinity up to and including the fourth degree of consanguinity (Great-Great Grandparent, Great Aunt/Uncle, First Cousin, and Grand Nephew/Niece);

(5) Both people are 62 years old or older (the law used to allow same sex partners to form a domestic partnership up to February 1, 2007 before civil unions/marriages between same sex partners were allowed);

(6) Both persons have chosen to share each other’s lives in a committed relationship of mutual caring; and

(7) Neither person has been a partner in a domestic partnership that was terminated less than 180 days prior to the filing of the current Affidavit of Domestic Partnership (unless the other partner in the partnership died).

The benefits the Act provides include protecting a member of a domestic partnership from the “debts of the other partner contracted before establishment of the domestic partnership, or contracted by the other partner in his own name during the domestic partnership.”  The Act also modifies the Law Against Discrimination to include domestic partners (N.J.S.A. §10:5-5).  This means that you cannot discriminate against domestic partners for purposes of providing employment, membership to a labor or other private organization, credit, mortgages & loans, & housing.  See N.J.S.A. §10:5-12.

From a medical standpoint, the Act requires licensed health care facilities to allow a domestic partner and their children to visit him or her as if the domestic partner is the other’s spouse N.J.S.A. §26:2H-12.22.  Domestic partners have the right to consent to a “post-mortem and necroscopic examination upon the body of a deceased” partner (N.J.S.A. § 26:6-50), consent to make an anatomical gift on behalf of the partner (N.J.S.A. § 26:6-58), and consent to disclose the “record of a deceased or legally incompetent person who has or is suspected of having AIDS or HIV infection.”  (N.J.S.A. §26:5C-12).  If no healthcare directive was established, domestic partners are treated as spouses for purposes of making medical decisions.  (N.J.S.A. §26:2H-58).

Domestic partners are classified as Class “A” beneficiaries and thus transfers to them are exempt from the inheritance tax when a partner passes away.   (N.J.S.A. § 54:34-2).  They are also classified as dependents under the state income tax law, and for domestic partners who file jointly, an exemption of $1,000 can be claimed against the tax burden.  (N.J.S.A. § 54:34-3.1).  Domestic partners are also classified as dependents for purposes of covering the partner on the other’s health insurance (N.J.S.A. § 26:8A-13 & 52:14-17.26).  Finally, for domestic partners who work in the State government and receive a pension through it, the State expanded its definition of “widower” to include the other domestic partner in determining who is eligible for the death benefit.  (N.J.S.A. §43:15A-6).

If you are looking for additional details on this topic or if you require advice about your situation, please contact Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. toll-free at (855) 376-5291 or email him at fniemann@hnlawfirm.com.  Please ask us about our video conferencing or telephone consultations if you are unable to come to our office.

Written by Stephen W. Kornas, Esq. of Hanlon Niemann & Wright

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