When two people get married, their lives become more intermingled. Conversations about finances, plans and goals are a critical part of many partnerships. Estate planning is certainly among the issues worth going through for a newly married couple. Here are three things couples should consider with regards to estate planning before and soon after marriage:
- Existing plans: If either party has drafted estate plans in the past, it is critical to review and update them to include the new marital relationship. This is especially important if there was a previous marriage and the former spouse is explicitly mentioned in past estate planning documents. But, even for first marriages, reviewing things like powers of attorney, executors, guardianship and other key issues is a good idea.
- Beneficiary designations: Many accounts have beneficiary designations, which means that the account transfers to someone else upon death. It is important to update these in addition to the will, as they are separate but should not be contradictory. Beneficiary designations also make it easier to transfer funds when someone dies, without requiring probate.
- Real estate: Often, people entering a marriage with their own real estate holdings will draft a prenuptial agreement to protect what they own. However, a prenuptial agreement only deals with the possibility of divorce. In the case of the owner’s death, there may be some different arrangements needed; for example, is there a period of time where the spouse can live there before selling to benefit other beneficiaries? These details can be specified in a will.
People coming into a marriage with assets, children or past estate plans should pay particularly attention to estate planning issues when they tie the knot. However, the occasion of getting married is a good time to discuss these types of plans in general since finances, real estate and family will be more intertwined moving forward. Couples can clarify these issues and draft a will that works for each party with the help of an estate planning lawyer.