For Better or Worse, Discuss Your Estate as a Couple
Are you making the transition into married life? Consider these five estate planning to-do’s as you start your life together.
Wedding season, which typically runs from late spring through early fall, is officially upon us. If you are engaged or newly married, consider discussing your estate planning intentions with your partner and a trusted advisor. While it’s easy to get wrapped up in finding the perfect dress or finalizing your guest list, you should also be planning for the life changes to come after the ceremony. Not only will this help prepare you for the road ahead, but it can also allow you to begin cultivating your estate as a couple.
Once you and your partner schedule a meeting with your advisor, you can begin by discussing these five estate planning moves, which should be addressed before or as soon as you head down the aisle:
- Update your beneficiary designations. To make your new spouse the beneficiary of your life insurance or retirement accounts, you’ll likely need to visit your employer’s HR department and complete the necessary forms.
- Review your life insurance needs. Have you spoken to your partner about what would happen if one of you passed away unexpectedly? For instance, if you own a home together and your spouse passed away, could you pay the mortgage with only one income? These questions can be difficult, but it’s important to consider whether your current life insurance still meets your needs – particularly if you have children or are planning to start a family in the near future.
- Execute your wills. The last thing on your mind if facing the devastating loss of your spouse is the legal minutiae. But you should know that while many states will rule that, in the absence of a will, all assets revert to the surviving partner, this is not always the case. Sadly, if your spouse dies without a will, you could endure the delay and expense of probate to determine what assets you may receive, all while you are grieving. In some cases, the state will even designate certain assets to parents or loved ones of the deceased spouse. As tough as it is, these conversations are incredibly important. Keep in mind, too, that your will and estate plan must reflect the same provisions of any prenuptial agreement in the event of your partner’s death.
- Consider establishing durable powers of attorney and advanced healthcare directives. Double check to make sure your partner is authorized to make medical, legal, or financial decisions on your behalf – not all states automatically grant spouses that authority. As you move into married life, ask those important questions and understand the decisions you might have to make for one another in the unfortunate event something unthinkable happens.
- Discuss your homeownership documents. Does one of you already own a home you will be sharing? Or, are you thinking about buying a home together? Consider your living situation as a couple and speak with your advisor about investigating strategies that include joint property and tenancy by the entirety, as well as state homestead laws and where to properly record deeds and other real estate documentation.
A wedding is an unforgettable event. But given all the time and expense that goes into preparing for the big day, it’s important that you dedicate some of those resources to planning for your future as a couple. These ideas will help you get the ball rolling on these important conversations to have with your financial advisor and your partner.
Raymond James and its advisors do not offer legal advice. You should discuss any legal matters with the appropriate professional.