Would you get married for financial reasons?
The financial pros and cons of a late marriage
"100 and 102-year-old couple get married" was the headline on June 24, 2019 on NBC News from the US state of Ohio. 202 years of age at marriage - that could be enough for the Guinness Book of Records. But the record is by no means safe here, because marriages of seniors are in vogue. Not only in the USA, also in Germany.
Increasingly more seniors decide (usually again) to marry. Some are widowed after the death of their partner, others are divorced and still others marry for the first time. But why should you - if you find a new love as a senior - go to the registry office instead of having a "wild marriage"?
Other aspects of a marriage become more important
There are a few things that speak in favor of marriage - apart from love and the need to document to the outside world that you belong together. Even in senior age. However, some things that are important for younger people when deciding on marriage become less important in old age. At least most.
The non-contributory family insurance of the statutory health insurance, which is only available to married couples, is more important in the phase of starting a family, for example, but not for most senior citizens. The tax splitting advantage, which is also only available to married people, naturally also applies to older people. But since less tax usually has to be paid in old age, this powerful argument is also less important for marriage in old age - except for those who have to pay taxes on really high income.
Also read:Supplementary pension, more money for a long life
In return, other aspects gain in importance. For example, the protection of the spouse in the event of their own death through a survivor's pension. In addition, only married people have a statutory right of inheritance. And in the event that one of the partners becomes ill or in need of care, the husband and wife have it (a little) easier to settle the affair of the sick or the person in need of care - although there are also ways of ensuring this without a marriage certificate.
Of course, there are also reasons that speak against getting married. The most important for widowed people is probably the threat of losing their own survivor's pension. In addition, some senior citizens are not necessarily enthusiastic about the partner's inheritance that the partner wins through marriage, especially if this is to the detriment of their own children.
What is important, however, is that nowadays there is also far more freedom for senior citizens to choose their way of life than they did decades ago. Discrimination against the non-marital relationship is a thing of the past, at least to a large extent. The derogatory term of "uncle marriage", which was common practice for the connection of the many war widows with partners without the blessing of state and church, is hardly used today.
Where the alternative of partnership without a marriage certificate has lost its horror, seniors who have been partnered can today weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of an official marriage and choose the solution that best suits them.
The following overview shows how much the number of marriages and partnerships has increased among people over the age of 65:
Single, with a partner or married: this is how senior women aged 65 and over live in Germany
without a partner
a total of
including as a spouse
including in "wild marriage"
Figures in 1,000
Change from 1996 to 2018
- 5 %
+ 59 %
+ 56 %
+ 170 %
Source: Federal Statistical Office (Destatis), results of the microcensus; Due to methodological changes, time series cannot be exactly compared; own calculations.
Against marriage: your own survivor's pension
If you were married to a spouse with statutory pension insurance, you are usually entitled to a survivor's pension from the statutory pension insurance after their death. Very similar regulations apply to the surviving dependents of civil servants and pensioners.
Those who receive a survivor's pension naturally ask themselves: What will happen to my survivor's pension in the event that I get married again at the registry office? This has not changed compared to the situation in the post-war period.
The sixth Social Security Code, which contains the rules on statutory pension insurance, clearly states in Section 46, Paragraph 1: Only "widows or widowers who have not remarried" are entitled to a survivor's pension. Therefore, if they remarry, they lose their widow's / widower's pension from the following month. The same applies to the surviving dependents of civil servants / pensioners.
In addition, if you receive a survivor's pension, you are obliged to report any change in your personal circumstances, in particular a marriage, on the basis of the notice issued by the pension insurance company beforehand. Incidentally, this also applies to marriages abroad - and even if the circumstances of the marriage seem rather strange.
Also read:When employees die - what do relatives inherit?
The State Social Court (LSG) Baden-Württemberg had to decide on a bizarre case on January 24, 2017. At that time it was about a (former) recipient of a widow's pension, born in 1943, and 71,000 euros. That's how much the German pension insurance asked her back. The court found this to be correct (Az. L 13 R 923/16). What was it about? About the importance of a candlelight marriage in Las Vegas.
The complaining elderly woman received a widow's pension since the death of her (first) husband in 1996. This was granted to her with the express notice of the pension insurance: "The pension ceases at the end of the month of remarriage. Therefore, there is a legal obligation to inform us of the remarriage immediately."
The recipient of a widow's pension had been living with her new partner since 1998. In 2002 the couple traveled to the USA, including Las Vegas. There they went to the Candlelight Wedding Chapel and had the data for the marriage recorded there, had to present their passports and were asked whether they were married. The plaintiff also had her first husband's death certificate with her, but was not asked about it. The wedding ceremony took place two days later. The German pension insurance was never informed about this because they did not take the marriage seriously, said the senior citizen.
The German pension insurance took the marriage very seriously. Just like the LSG now. The LSG even found that the person concerned had acted with gross negligence in failing to notify. Consequence: The elderly woman has to repay the entire widow's pension that she has received since her marriage in 2002.
- Biallo tip: Important information about getting married - for example whether a marriage concluded abroad is also valid in Germany - is available on the website of the Federal Foreign Office.
Survivor's pension is settled
If you get married again as a widow or widower and thus lose your survivor's pension, the German Pension Insurance will sweeten that with a severance payment. If you remarry for the first time, you will receive 24 times your monthly pension as a severance payment. This is regulated in Section 107 of the Sixth Social Code. The average amount of the gross widow's or widower's pension for the last twelve calendar months is paid.
In the case of compulsorily insured persons, the amounts "which arise before the deduction of the compulsory health insurance or long-term care insurance and without the contribution of the pension insurance carrier" are used, according to the joint legal instructions of the German pension insurance on Section 107 SGB VI ("R6 Relevant Pension Amounts ").
So it doesn't depend on the amount transferred. Anyone who was entitled to a survivor's pension of 1,000 euros a month before the contributions to health and long-term care insurance were deducted will receive a severance payment of 24,000 euros. If your entitlement to a survivor's pension was suspended due to income or credit regulations, there is no severance payment.
- Note: Unlike the survivor's pension itself, the severance payment for the survivor's pension is tax-free. This is regulated by paragraph 3 number 3a of the Income Tax Act.
Pro marriage: survivor's pension for the partner
The survivor's pension can not only be the decisive factor against getting married in old age. In some cases, it can also be the main reason for getting married. This applies in particular if there is no obstacle to the impending loss of a survivor's pension or if the partner has only received a small survivor's pension so far.
Consider divorce risk
Of course, in individual cases, getting married to a partner with a good pension can also be interesting with regard to your own security in retirement. If the partner is "in the best of health", one does not necessarily have to fear the one-year continuation clause for a survivor's pension (see below). The risk of divorce can be more problematic. Seniors' marriages, which in view of the increased life expectancy can exist for decades, are also subject to the risk of divorce.
For those who were entitled to a survivor's pension from their previous marriage before the new marriage, the consequences of divorce are limited. Because after the divorce - upon application - the previous survivor's pension is revived. The widow's / widower's pension after the penultimate spouse is regulated in Section 46 Paragraph 3 of the Sixth Social Code. This pension is paid to anyone who remarried or established a registered civil partnership after the death of the previous partner if the new relationship was terminated or broken.
- Biallo tip: Despite the advantageous regulation of the survivor's pension after the penultimate spouse, in the event of divorce, those who rely primarily on a new marriage for their financial security are often at a disadvantage. It is better to make provisions for this case in a marriage contract with post-marital maintenance arrangements.
It is important in any case: There is no survivor's pension for partners who live together unmarried, but only for married people or for officially (according to the Civil Partnership Act) partners.
If one of the spouses dies, the widow or widower is entitled to a survivor's pension if the deceased has either already received a statutory pension or has completed the minimum insurance period of five years. If the new spouse dies, the surviving dependents may also be entitled to two widow's / widower's pensions - the survivor's pension from the previous marriage and the one from the last marriage. But the advantages of this are limited: In this case, only the higher pension is paid out. This is regulated in Section 90 Paragraph 1 SGB VI.
Also read: Marriage Contract - Making Fair Deals in Peaceful Times
Pay attention to the one-year rule
The length of the marriage does not matter, provided the marriage lasted at least a year. In the case of a shorter marriage, according to Section 46, Paragraph 2a, SGB VI, the assumption that it was a matter of a purely "care marriage" applies.
- Section 46 Paragraph 2a SGB VI:
Widows or widowers are not entitled to a widow's pension or widower's pension if the marriage has not lasted for at least a year - unless the particular circumstances of the case do not justify the assumption that it was the sole or predominant purpose of the marriage, one Establish entitlement to a survivor's pension.
In any case, this applies to all marriages that are currently being concluded (and generally to marriages after January 1, 2002). This regulates paragraph 242a SGB VI.
The one-year rule is intended to prevent so-called "deathbeds" (= marriage on the deathbed), which were only concluded because of the entitlement to a widow's / widower's pension. The pension insurance does not pay a survivor's pension if you get married shortly before death in order to secure the other's survivor's pension.
In the case of a marriage that was less than a year before the death, the German Pension Insurance will usually not pay you, as the surviving partner, a survivor's pension. However, you can refute the assumption that the primary purpose of the marriage was to give you a survivor's pension.
One thing is clear: The fact that the thought of the survivor's pension played no role when getting married in old age is unworldly and is neither expected by the legislature nor by the German pension insurance. However: other reasons for the marriage must be at least equally important.
In the instructions of the Deutsche Rentenversicherung regarding Paragraph 46a SGB VI, it expressly states: "Does this already result in this context that, in addition to the concept of care, other, objectively verifiable and comprehensible reasons were equally decisive for the marriage / establishment of the registered civil partnership this is usually sufficient for the refutation. "
In its instructions, the Deutsche Rentenversicherung lists some classic cases in which the legal presumption of a pension marriage or care partnership is refuted if the duration is less than one year. This includes the death of a partner as a result of an accident or a crime. The decisive factor for this assessment is "that the accident and the crime are sudden, unforeseeable events that cannot be controlled by either the insured person or his partner."
If the death of the partner as a result of such events occurs before the end of one year after the marriage or the establishment of the registered civil partnership, this cannot be attributed to the spouse or life partner. The same applies to a disease that occurred suddenly and quickly led to death (for example, an infectious disease or a heart attack with an unknown heart disease).
Federal Social Court per surviving dependents
On May 5, 2009, the Federal Social Court (BSG) ruled that the pension insurance may not automatically assume a "care marriage" even if a terminally ill person marries and dies within a year. The BSG found: In principle, the statutory tightening of the requirements for a survivor's pension since 2002 is constitutionally unobjectionable. However, the pension insurance agency must fathom the motives for getting married.
In the specific case decided, a couple first divorced in 1973, then remarried in May 2003 - shortly after the man was diagnosed with cancer. The husband died eight months later. The pension fund assumed a pension marriage. The wife only received a meager pension of EUR 286.25, while her husband received EUR 1,848 in the month of death - with corresponding consequences for the survivor's pension. It goes without saying that caring for people played a role in the marriage. The pension insurance therefore rejected the application for a widow's pension. Wrongly, as the BSG said: It depends on all of the spouses' motives leading to marriage, including those of a (highly) personal, subjective nature (that is, on "love" as a marriage motive). The BSG clearly took the side of the widow (Az. B 13 R 55/08 R).
According to the case law of the courts, a long-term marriage-like community before marriage does not as a rule speak against the presumption of a provident marriage. According to the Deutsche Rentenversicherung, long-term coexistence "without a marriage certificate" is based "as a rule on the long-term conscious decision not to marry and thus not to be subject to the various legal regulations that apply to married couples." If the marriage is then concluded very quickly with a short lead time after the occurrence of a life-threatening illness, the presumption of a care marriage is very close.
Protection of the (spouse) partner through inheritance
Inheritance claims play an important role, especially in marriages that are concluded in old age. Because illegitimate partnerships enjoy no special protection under inheritance law. This means: If there is no other voluntary disposition due to death - such as a will or an inheritance contract - the spouse-like partner receives nothing, even if the partnership has existed for decades. The persons provided for in the law then become heirs. Basically, these are the relatives of the deceased. If the partner lives in the house of the deceased, in the worst case they even have to move out if the heirs so request. If you want to avoid this, you can, for example, bequeath your partner a right of residence in a will.
Of course, part of the financial assets can be bequeathed to the illegitimate partner in a will, whereby the compulsory share of the children - if available - must be taken into account. But for the inheriting partner without a marriage certificate, only an allowance of 20,000 euros applies, just like for other "non-relatives". Anything beyond that is subject to inheritance tax.In addition, a higher tax rate applies to the taxable inheritance than to a spouse. Therefore, with inherited financial assets of 500,000 euros, a non-marital partner who has been considered in a will will have a maximum of 336,000 euros. After a civil marriage, however, the spouse's allowance of 500,000 euros applies. In this case, there is no inheritance tax.
So when it comes to the inheritance and security of the partner, there are a few arguments in favor of getting married. However, one partner - often both of them - often has children from previous marriages or relationships. The inheritance claims of one's own children may then compete with those of the new spouse. If you do not want your own fortune to go, at least in large part, to your partner's children, you have to be careful.
What happens in the standard case if you have children yourself and die before your new spouse? "As a rule, the new spouse inherits half of the estate. Your own children inherit the other half of the estate in equal parts," explains Barbara Brauck-Hunger, specialist lawyer for inheritance law in Geisenheim. And what if the other partner dies too? "Then the half inherited from him goes in full to his children." The bottom line is: "The children of your new partner inherit half of your assets."
But this can be avoided with an appropriate will. "For example, the surviving spouse can be bequeathed a usufruct right to the estate in a will, but his own children become heirs. The usufructuary right enables the surviving spouse to use the estate for himself. These are, for example, the rental income, interest income, housing rights an apartment et cetera. After the death of the surviving spouse, one's own children receive their parent's assets. The surviving spouse is provided for, but the substance of the assets is retained for their own children, "explains the Geisenheim inheritance law expert. There are also other variants. If you want to ensure that your spouse and your children are protected under inheritance law, you should seek advice from a specialist lawyer.
Also read:Estate, your rights and obligations as an inheritance
Regulations for sickness and long-term care
In practice, spouses and civil partners may be more likely to receive information when it comes to their partner's illness and need for care than partners without a marriage license. But the principle of medical confidentiality also applies to a spouse. Especially if someone is so badly injured or ill that they cannot express themselves, doctors will weigh up whether the person concerned would have wanted their spouse to know about their condition. But this is by no means certain - and it is always an individual decision. In individual cases, doctors will probably also make an appropriate assessment with a non-marital partner.
Also read:This is how dementia can be financially covered
In any case, it makes sense - for married people as well as for unmarried people - to provide for in the event of a serious illness or an accident with a power of attorney and living will.
Subjectively, however, because it still gives many people a feeling of security, marriage may be associated with the desire to receive loving care later - in the event that one is dependent on care. After all, Paragraph 1353 of the Civil Code regulates this: "The spouses are obliged to marry each other; they are responsible for each other." It remains to be seen whether in marriages there is actually much more responsibility for the partner than in marriage-like relationships.
From a financial point of view, however, this is always true: because a maintenance obligation only exists between spouses and not between partners in a illegitimate partnership. If one of the spouses is in need of care and is even dependent on home care, the social welfare office may make advance payments for care costs that the affected partner cannot pay from their own income and the benefits of long-term care insurance - however, the office takes recourse against the dependent partner.
Social assistance / basic security in old age
Almost 600,000 senior citizens in Germany receive old age social assistance (basic security in old age). A marriage can have negative consequences for anyone who receives this benefit as a single person. Because then the person affected forms a community of needs with his or her partner - as long as the partners live together. And that means: In certain circumstances, social assistance will not apply, at least if the partner is financially much better off. When checking whether there is a right to basic security, the office is based on the income of both partners. The same applies, however, to partners similar to marriage who live together over the long term. Here the office assumes a community of commitment and responsibility.
Also read:Basic security in old age, when is rent appropriate?
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