Getting married is one of the most joyful and exciting times in our lives, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its complications. Figuring out how to merge your households and assets is often one of the biggest challenges of marriage, and estate planning is no different.
Everyone should have an estate plan, but it can be even more important for married couples.
Here’s what you need to know about estate planning as a married couple, why it’s important, and what you should consider when you’re making your estate plan.
What Your Estate Plan Does
Estate planning gives you more control over your assets after you’re gone, including who will protect your estate and make sure your wishes are respected. Your estate plan can also include more personal documents like your living will and medical power of attorney in case you aren’t able to make your own medical and end-of-life decisions.
Naturally, when you’re married, those documents get a little more complicated. While you might trust your spouse and family to take care of the details for your end-of-life care and how your assets are dealt with, it’s still important to have a plan in place.
As a couple, you’ll also have to decide things like who your heirs will be, and what they will receive from your estate. Since you may each have different people you want to name, it’s important to have a clear idea of who will take care of your assets and come to an agreement on who will inherit what.
Advantages of An Estate Plan for Married Couples
As a married couple, you typically cannot give assets away while your spouse is living, so it’s critical to make sure you know each other’s wishes so they will be carried out appropriately. An estate plan makes those wishes very clear, and certain parts of your estate plan are legally binding and ensure your decisions are respected.
A good estate plan for married couples can also help protect your assets from estate taxes and provide other financial benefits helping you pass down as much as you can.
What Your Estate Plan Should Include
As a married couple, it’s important to think about your property and what assets are shared, and which assets you might want to keep separate. A prenuptial agreement can help if there are assets you want to keep separate outside of the marriage or want to pass on independent of your shared assets.
You will also need to think about money earned and assets gained during your marriage. Most of the time anything earned during the marriage will be considered a joint asset, but you can take some steps to keep property and assets separated if you prefer.
Lastly, you’ll need to think about gifts are given to you and your spouse, and how the appreciation of your assets will be handled.
Once you know how your assets are legally categorized and have copies of any legal agreements separating assets, you need an executor who can follow your wishes. The executor oversees your estate plan and makes sure your directions are followed.
You may also want to include your will, living will, and medical care directives in your estate plan. As a couple, it’s a good idea for both of you to include your wishes for a memorial or celebration of life, how you would like your remains cared for, and other end-of-life details.
If you aren’t sure what you should include in your estate plan it may be in your best interest to consult with a legal professional. In addition, a financial planner may also be needed to help make sure the financial aspect of your lives works within the estate plan you do establish.