Newly Hitched? Why You Need to Have Estate Planning on the Mind

by Lauren C. Enea, Esq.

Financial Frequency. myWellness

June 10, 2019 .3 min read

Congratulations! You’re officially married and now embarking on a new chapter in your life.

As you enjoy your post-honeymoon glow and find yourself adjusting to your new normal, you may be asking yourself:

So, now what?

Just like planning your wedding, planning your new life together takes time, teamwork and some financial investment. To make things as “simple" as they can be, let’s start with your financials and all that legal stuff. Yes, we all know you need to change your name (if you choose to do so), but have you considered the other financial and/or strategic aspects that might need your attention?  

Here are five things to consider doing after you’re officially married:

Update Your Identification and Bank Accounts

Depending on your financial relationship with your new spouse, you may already have joint bank accounts, or you may have kept everything separate.  After you change your name, you may also want to restructure your bank accounts and create joint bank accounts.

Aside from pure convenience, having a joint bank account with your significant other could avoid an administration or probate proceeding in the event of one spouse’s death, and it also allows for open communication and financial transparency within your new marriage.  

Of course, you may wish to continue to keep inheritances and property obtained before the marriage separate.

Sign Your Last Will & Testament

You probably don’t have a Last Will & Testament at this point, but if you do, you’ll want to update it to address your spouse as the primary beneficiary.  

This document is crucial because not only does it indicate who you would like to receive your assets when you pass away, but it also addresses who will handle those assets and administer your estate.   

This document also allows you to name a guardian for any minor children you may have, in the event you and your spouse both pass away.

Update Your Beneficiary Designations

You likely already have beneficiaries listed on your retirement and life insurance accounts, but you may have a different individual, such as your parent or sibling.  At this point, you’ll want to review and update these beneficiary designation forms to list your spouse as your primary beneficiary.

While you are at it, make sure you discuss these accounts with your spouse so that you are both aware who each has as the named beneficiaries.

Execute Your Advanced Directives

Advanced Directives are documents where you permit another individual (an agent) to make either health care or financial decisions for you when you cannot.  

A health care proxy provides authority for someone to make medical decisions in the event you cannot make them yourself while a Power of Attorney grants authority to someone so they can make financial decisions on your behalf, in the event you cannot make them for yourself.  

It’s critical that you discuss, draft and review these documents with your spouse. Your trust and estates attorney should draft up these documents and should reflect each of your wishes.

Often spouses will act as each other’s health care proxy agent and power of attorney. And in the event, your spouse cannot act on your behalf, appoint a successor.

Update Your Real Property Ownership

It’s very common for a newly married couple to have purchased real estate property prior to getting married.  If that’s the case for you, make sure that your property title is updated to reflect that you and your spouse now own the property as “joint tenants with rights of survivorship" or as “tenants by the entirety," based on the laws of the state you reside.  

Remember, real estate property owned by married couples receive certain benefits that should be reviewed with an attorney, such as avoiding probate and/or certain creditor protection.

Just like planning your wedding, planning your financial and legal life together takes time, teamwork and some financial investment.  It’s best to start small and speak with a local legal professional to discuss the various estate planning options available and to help create legal documents to give you the security to support a long marriage of good health and happiness!