So, you have tied the knot. Whether six months or 60 years ago, congratulations! With each marriage comes new rights and new responsibilities. Remember that in sickness and in health part in traditional wedding vows?
If you already have an estate plan created when you were Single, then you must bring your estate plan up-to-date to reflect your wedding vows. Read on to learn why estate planning for married couples is essential.
Unfortunately, many married couples mistakenly believe they can make personal, health care, and financial decisions for one another should either spouse become legally incapacitated due to a serious injury or illness. Nothing could be further from reality!
Without proper estate planning for married couples in advance to appoint your spouse as the incapacity decision-maker, he or she will not have the legal authority to make even fundamental decisions for you (or affecting both of you). For example, medical privacy laws will bar access to your medical records and the ability to consult with your attending physician, financial laws limit control over your finances, and IRS regulations will prohibit filing a “legal” joint income tax return … for starters.
Unless you legally appoint the decision-maker of your own selection in advance through proper estate planning for married couples, then a probate judge will select one for you. While the judge will likely appoint your spouse, the probate court process to accomplish this is expensive (it employs at least three attorneys), discloses your private personal and financial information to the public record, and is a real hassle for your spouse.
While the formal name for this probate process is guardianship and conservatorship, we affectionately refer to it as the lawyer full-employment program.
Did you know that, in the absence of proper estate planning for married couples, your assets may be distributed after death based on “one-size-fits-all” state laws written for people who do not have their own estate plans? Of course, this impersonal estate plan written by state lawmakers may not reflect your own unique circumstances and objectives for your spouse and assets.
In fact, depending on how you titled your premarital assets and how your beneficiary designations are arranged, you may disinherit your own spouse and force your spouse to sue your estate!
Fortunately, we can help you avoid the lawyer full-employment program and replace that impersonal, state-written, one-size-fits-all estate plan with one we design together for your unique circumstances and objectives. We even help you coordinate the beneficiary designations on your life insurance and retirement plans with your estate plan to avoid unpleasant, unintended consequences.
We can help you protect everyone you love and everything you have. There are three ways to schedule your complimentary initial consultation: first, give us a call; second, send us an e-mail; or, third, Request Initial Consultation/Review online.