When a couple ties the knot, their lives change in a variety of ways. When a couple begins their new lives together, it is important to think about all of the changes and updates that need to be made. Having a comprehensive estate plan that includes both people is a great way to start. With the help of our Sacramento estate planning lawyers, you can be sure that you are both on the same page with regard to financial affairs, health care, and end of life decisions.
The need to update beneficiaries and join accounts
Usually, married couples decide to join their financial accounts, including checking and savings accounts. Opening joint bank accounts, or adding one spouse’s name to the other spouse’s accounts, as well as credit cards, may make it more convenient to pay joint expenses. However, if a spouse has assets from prior to the marriage that he or she wants to maintain as separate property, a joint account may not be the best option Purchasing life insurance plans and combining other types of insurance policies can also provide significant financial benefits. Any bank accounts or policies that you already have may need to be updated, as far as the named beneficiaries. While most people leave their retirement accounts and life insurance policies to their spouses at their death, before you get married those accounts and policies may name a parent or sibling as beneficiary. If that designation is not changed when you get married, your spouse may not automatically inherit those assets.
You need to update any existing estate planning documents
It is not uncommon for newlyweds to already have their own estate planning documents, so it is necessary to review those documents and determine what updates need to be made. Marriage is one of those life events that necessitate revisions to your estate plan. A spouse who takes the other spouse’s last name will need to make revisions to estate planning documents to reflect the new name.
Be sure to update all identification documentation
One thing that may initially be overlooked when one gets married is making all necessary changes to official papers that reflect one’s new married name. Some examples of documentation that should be changed include your driver’s license or state-issued ID, passport, Social Security card, credit cards and bank accounts, insurance policies, employment documentation and voter registration. If you take care of these changes early on, it will save you complications in the future.
Couples should include a will or trust in their estate plans
Regardless of how much property you may have, you should consider hiring an estate planning attorney to draft a proper will or trust for you. That way, you can ensure that your family, and the court, has a clear roadmap for how you want your estate handled. Always remember that the value of an asset is not always seen in terms of money. Some property will have more of a sentimental value. Discuss the value of certain assets with your family ahead of time to avoid problems in the future, if you leave that property to the “wrong” person.
Discuss trust benefits with your Sacramento estate planning lawyers
You should discuss with your estate planning lawyers whether a joint trust or separate trusts are best for you. If you do, then you need to select an appropriate trustee to manage your trust, someone who will make an appropriate fiduciary. That means someone who can be trusted with your affairs and to handle your assets with only your best interests in mind.
Don’t try to establish a trust on your own
Trusts are complicated estate planning instruments which, if not handled properly, may not be valid. The best thing to do is seek the assistance of an experienced and qualified estate planning lawyers who understands the tax consequences and benefits of the various types of trusts. Also, do not forget to name successor trustees along with your primary trustee. There are various reasons a chosen trustee may not be able to serve in that capacity in the future.
You cannot assume that your spouse can automatically take over everything
Do not assume that your spouse will simply take over and handle things for you if you become incapacitated. It is possible that your spouse won’t be available. For instance, if you are both injured in a car accident and both are incapacitated then you will need someone to handle your affairs.
If you have questions regarding estate planning concerns for newlyweds, or any other estate planning issues, contact the Northern California Center for Estate Planning and Elder Law for a consultation, either online or by calling us at (916) 437-3500.