Whether you’re having an extravagant party or a small ceremony with a few family and friends, weddings are a celebration of your love and the future you’ll build together. But once you’ve tied the knot, it’s important to start planning your estate as a couple. It may not sound as exciting, but with our experienced Mortellaro Law team, we can make planning your estate easier than planning your wedding. Here are some of our estate planning tips for recently married couples.
Decide on Shared Assets
For planning purposes, as well as cost-effectiveness, you may consider creating or unifying certain accounts and assets with your spouse. You’ll likely save money and simplify your file cabinets by sharing the same health insurance, car insurance, cell phone plans, and many other subscription services. You may also want to open a shared bank account or credit card; you can still keep your separate ones or fully transition to shared accounts.
Make sure both you and your spouse have the passwords for all your shared accounts. You may even want to put this information in your estate plan so that your beneficiaries have an easier time accessing the assets you leave for them (read our blog post about digital asset estate planning here).
For your IRA, 401(k), or other employer-sponsored retirement accounts, you’ll need to update the beneficiary designation if you want your spouse to inherit it. It’s important to always update your beneficiary designations after any major life event such as a marriage, divorce, or birth of a child because the designation can trump your will in court.
Update Your Will
Take this major life change as an opportunity to build the foundation of your estate plan by updating your will or creating one for the first time. A will is a legal document that outlines how you wish to have your property distributed when you die. Whether you have kids already, or might in the future, the will is where you’ll name their guardian if something happens to you and your spouse.
Decide how you want your assets divided upon your passing and update your will regularly as your assets and family grow throughout your marriage.
Create a Trust
One of the most often-used tools in estate planning is a trust. A trust is a legal entity created in order to manage your assets, control how your assets are distributed after your death, or to set a plan in case you become incapacitated. Think of a trust as a bucket. You can put virtually anything in this bucket: cash, a house, stocks, savings bonds, real estate, jewelry or heirlooms. A trust that’s been properly written with the help of an experienced state planning attorney can help ensure your beneficiaries get the assets they’re entitled to without costly probate delays.
Power of Attorney
Nobody knows you better than your spouse, and that’s why most people tend to grant power of attorney to their better half. A power of attorney document is one of the most important pieces of any estate plan. Most simply, a power of attorney gives a person (agent) the power to make legal decisions on behalf of another person (principal).
Depending on the amount of power you grant them, your agent would be able to make financial decisions in your absence such as sell property, access your bank accounts, apply for government benefits, and pay for your expenses. However, power of attorney documents become invalid upon your incapacitation unless they are made durable. A durable power of attorney document would allow the agent to make decisions on your behalf if you were deemed medically unable to do so. If you or your spouse don’t feel comfortable taking on this responsibility, you can assign powers of attorney to a third party you trust with your finances.
In Florida, you can also designate a health care surrogate to make health care decisions on your behalf should you become incapacitated. Officially designating this responsibility to your spouse can prevent potential legal battles and stress between your family members later down the line.
One, or both of you may have a life insurance policy through your jobs, but it’s worth revisiting your existing plan or setting up a plan for the first time to protect your new family. A quality life insurance plan could help your family cover funeral costs and prevent them from falling into financial trouble should you pass away.
For most people, life insurance is surprisingly affordable. It’s well worth a few hundred dollars per year to ensure your family’s financial security if something were to happen to you.
Whether this is your first marriage, or you’re giving love another try, it’s important to update your estate plan to reflect this milestone. Mortellaro Law’s experienced estate planning attorneys are here to help you plan for your new family’s future. Call us today or complete the form below to schedule your free one-hour consultation.