Thursday, July 30, 2009

One reason to marry

At the Volokh Conspiracy, Ilya Somin writes:

David Bernstein and Megan McArdle ask whether there is any good reason to get an official marriage sanctioned by the state, as opposed to just arranging a private ceremony without state sanction.

Unfortunately, they both ignore an important property law reason for getting an official state-sanctioned marriage: it gives you the right to own property together in tenancy by the entirety. This form of concurrent ownership has two advantages not available otherwise. One co-tenant is not allowed to sell their interest without the other's consent. And should one spouse become insolvent, creditors are not allowed to seize the joint property to pay off her debts (though they still can do so if the debt in question is a joint debt owed by both partners to the marriage). So if your significant other tends to run up lots of debts that he can't pay, or you worry that he will sell his share in your jointly owned property to obnoxious third parties, you may want to get married. Assuming, of course, that you want to stay with such an untrustworthy spendthrift at all. Romance, thy name is property law!

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