Married couples in California who want to create an estate plan will have to think about a variety of issues together. When a single person develops an estate plan, he or she doesn’t necessarily have to coordinate with anyone else about the choices the plan addresses. Married couples, on the other hand, should make it a point to speak to one another about these essential topics while they craft a plan. If you are married, or are considering becoming married, here’s what you should consider when you go about the process of crafting an estate plan.
Spousal Inheritance Rights
One of the most important issues in estate planning that faces married couples is the question about what to do when it comes to inheritance. Spouses have a relatively unique place when it comes to inheritance law in that they are automatically entitled to receive an inheritance upon the other spouse’s death. Everyone else, even people closely related to you, does not have this automatic inheritance right.
So, at the very least, married couples who craft an estate plan cannot make inheritance decisions without first calculating how much their spouse is entitled to. You cannot disinherit a spouse, so you have to plan to head for the amount your spouse will inherit.
On the other hand, it is possible to waive this spousal inheritance right if you so choose. Married couples that choose to waive inheritance rights typically do so because they are sure that, regardless of what happens, both spouses will be financially protected in the future. Choosing to waive spousal inheritance rights also gives you the ability to give others larger inheritances than you otherwise would be able to.
Another vital issue that married couples should address through their estate plans is the question of who you want to serve as guardian for any minor children. Should both you and your spouse die simultaneously, do you know who would take over parental responsibilities for your child? Do you know who you would want to take over in this situation? Are you when your spouse in agreement about the choice?
Deciding on the guardian is never an easy thing to do, and it is an issue that can take some discussion and consideration.
Most people who select a guardian choose a close family member, such as a sibling or even a parent. However, there is no legal requirement stating that you must choose a family member when making a guardianship decision. Always choose a guardian who will be responsible and capable of caring for the child in a manner you approve. If you do not have a close family member who you believed to be responsible enough, consider others outside of your immediate family circle. More distant relatives, family friends, and even business partners can all serve as responsible guardians if they have the proper character traits.
It is not necessary to struggle with these decisions alone. An experienced and qualified estate planning attorney can help with answers and solutions to many issues you may be facing.