It is tempting to think that marriage is not necessary, legally speaking, as long as one is careful about making up wills and signing directives and buying insurance policies. But, from a practical standpoint, that’s just not true (even putting aside the premiums and lawyers’ fees for all those papers). Nor is this only about the elderly, though that’s bad enough: according to the Social Security Web site, there can be benefits for a surviving spouse of any age who is caring for a child (including an adopted child) under the age of sixteenor older, if the child is disabledif the widow or widower’s income falls below a certain level. (There are also benefits in the child’s name.) So if your parents were married, there is more of a safety net for your care. And what if your parents weren’t allowed to get married?