First and foremost - congratulations on this exciting milestone! As a newly married couple, it's likely you have a lot of work to do to join your lives together legally and financially, and you may be thinking about starting a family soon. So, should you wait to put your estate planning documents in place until after you have children? No, you should not wait. Even if you plan to have children soon after you're married, you should put your Will and other estate planning documents in place now. Life is unpredictable and the costs of putting this off is often far greater than the cost of doing it now. We can work with you to create a plan that works for you now while considering your future children.
As a newly married couple, your estate planning should consider your personal circumstances, financial status, and your goals. Typically, your estate plan will include a Will, General and Durable Power of Attorney, Medical Power of Attorney and Living Will. In some cases, it may make sense to include a Trust. As you think about your Will, you should try answering some of these questions: Do you want to leave all of your assets to your new spouse in the event of your passing, or do you want to include your parents, siblings or other loved ones too? Who would you leave your assets to if your spouse passed away before you and you did not have children? Are there close friends or charities you would like to include? Do you have debt, businesses, rental properties, pets, etc. to consider? Who would you name as your executor? Do you both want to name the same people? If you're planning to have children, you may also want to start thinking about you you would name as trustees and guardians for your children if both of you passed away while they were minors.
As you think about your Power of Attorney documents, you should consider your who you would want to name as your financial and medical advocates. These documents are becoming more and more critical as financial privacy laws and HIPAA laws tighten. Would you name your spouse, parent, someone else, or maybe both? Do you and your spouse want to name the same people or different people? Would you name the same people as agents for both financial and medical support?
Finally, as you think about these questions, you should also consider how your real estate, bank accounts and other financial assets (such as 401Ks, IRAs, and life insurance policies) are titled and who your primary and contingent beneficiaries are. Again, do you want to leave all of your assets to your new spouse in the event of your passing, or do you want to include your parents, siblings or other loved ones too? What if your spouse predeceases you?
This is not a comprehensive list of questions, but rather an exercise to help you start exploring some decisions that you will need to address as you create your estate plan. When you are ready, we can work together to identify your goals and put together a plan that is customized to your needs and wishes. For now, congratulations again!
Quick tip: If you're changing your legal name, you should change your social security card, driver's license, and any other legal documents that reflect your maiden name before setting up your estate planning appointment. Alternatively, we can put your documents together now and update them after your name is legally changed. If you are not changing your legal name, or have already finishing that process, it's time to check "estate planning" off of your checklist.