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Just Married: Quick Estate Planning Guidelines

You’re already sharing a life, now it’s time to share some important information to get your next chapter off to a seamless start.

I work with many individuals who have gotten married within the last few years or are looking to do so soon. While there are many logistical items that are required to plan a wedding and tie the knot, once you do so, the journey has only just begun. Now it’s time to finalize all the details and be sure that your financial lives are in order moving forward. Whether you decide to fully combine your accounts or not, the fact of the matter is that you will now be working toward joint goals and should make sure you are on the same page as your new spouse.

While I am not an estate planning attorney, or attorney at all, here are some of the common pitfalls I have seen from clients that I wouldn’t want you to make. When in doubt, talk to an estate planning attorney to discuss your specific circumstances.

Friends with Beneficiaries

  • You should update your following accounts to reflect your spouse as the new beneficiary or transfer on death designation.
  • Bank accounts
  • Life insurance policies (work or individual)
  • Investments: stocks, bonds, mutual funds, etc.
  • Retirement accounts: 401k, IRA, Roth IRA, 403b
  • Pension: SEP/SARSEP
  • Trusts
  • Military Benefits
  • Property, titles, and assets that might currently name someone else as beneficiary
    • For example, if you previously named a sibling to receive a certain benefit that you now want your spouse to receive in the event of your passing.

Two Hearts (and Accounts) Become One

  • Here are some accounts you should consider creating or consolidating once you’re married, although this route is not for everyone. You should speak to your financial professional before taking these steps.
  • Open joint bank accounts: start by filling it with any extra wedding gift money that wasn’t spent on the honeymoon.
  • Health insurance: marriage qualifies as a special enrollment period, so look to see if it makes sense for you and your new spouse to go on the same plan.
  • Car insurance: look into combining your car and even home/renters’ insurance policies to see if you can save money on a regular basis by bundling these policies.
  • Re-title property ownership documents: this applies to homes, cars, or other assets.
    • Usually, these pass to your spouse anyway if something happens to you, but better to be safe than sorry!
  • Duplicate accounts/services: consolidate accounts/services that you can.
    • Do you need two Costco accounts? Two Netflix accounts? Two primate accounts?

Estate Plan Documents

After getting married, no matter if you have $1,000,000 or $1,000 in your bank account, it very well could be worth it to set up an estate plan, especially if you’re planning to start a family. Most people think of an estate plan as something for a grandma or grandpa who has a lot of money they are trying to hide from taxes. But the Power of Attorney (POA) documents are just as important to a young family as anything else. The Durable POA document and Medical POA document help name who you want to direct your financial and health-related decisions should you be incapable of doing so— a very significant decision no matter your age. While most spouses are logical first choices, should you both be incapacitated, it is important to name a second individual to assume these roles. I highly encourage all individuals I meet with, even young couples, to at least meet with an estate planning attorney to get their professional take and recommendation. As I said before, better to be safe than sorry!

Once you’ve gone through all these steps, touch base with your financial professional to keep them apprised of your decisions. A good financial planner will be the greatest asset in the event of a family tragedy. Whether it is a loved one passing, or a disability event, they’ve seen clients go through this many times. They can help you make sound financial decisions in times of crisis. We do it for our clients all the time!

Categories: Family

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