Labor Day weekend has come and gone marking the unofficial end of the summer. However, one season is still in full swing. That’s right, it’s wedding season. Many couples have said their “I Do’s” this summer and will continue to do so over the next few months. As someone who recently tied the knot, I understand the importance of laying the foundation for basic estate planning concepts as you begin your life together. Here are a few simple things newlyweds or any couple can do to ensure their loved ones are provided for in the event something unforeseen occurs.
Beneficiary Designations. Jointly held assets and accounts with beneficiary designations pass outside of the Will. Updating your beneficiary designation on a retirement account, life insurance policy or stock portfolio is a simple, inexpensive and efficient way to ensure your loved one receives these assets without the complexity, cost and often time-consuming probate process. Additionally, you should consider how bank accounts are going to be titled. If you have a joint bank account, then you are already ahead of the game. However, for any bank accounts that were opened before the marriage or remain separate, consider listing your loved one as a “payable on death” beneficiary. This way you can maintain your separate bank account and still provide for your loved one.
Update Real Estate Documents. If either spouse or both spouses owned real estate prior to the marriage re-titling the property as joint tenants with the right of survivorship is one way to avoid the probate process and ensure the surviving spouse receives the property outright.
Create a Will. Most couples come into a marriage without having drafted a Will or even considering it. I can certainly understand not wanting to think about the disposition of your assets in the event of your death. However, after making the decision to spend the rest of your life with the one you love, ensuring that they are provided for should be on the forefront of your mind. Drafting a will is an important financial planning tool that will allow you to control how your assets are distributed and to whom. It also allows you to plan for the future and name a guardian for your (future) children or set up a trust. The experienced attorneys at Littman Krooks can assist you in drafting your estate planning documents to ensure your assets are protected and your loved ones provided for.
Prepare Powers of Attorney and Advance Directives. While not commonly thought of as an estate or financial planning tool, a power of attorney and advance directives such as a living will and health care proxy are powerful tools that allow your loved one to make decisions for you in the event you are unable. It is important to discuss your wishes with your significant other so that if there comes a time that you do not have the capacity to make your own decisions, you know that your loved one (or another designated agent) will carry out your wishes as you would have wanted.
Irrespective of whether you are a newlywed or have been married for several years, these tips can help lay the framework for estate planning as your family and assets continue to grow.