Whether in Columbus, Ohio or elsewhere, getting married is great fun! But after you say your vows, you should make certain your “I Do” carries over to your assets. Make sure you have an estate plan and that you update all of your ownership documents to show that you are married and no longer single. Although estate planning is not as exciting and romantic as planning your honeymoon, it is important that you think about these things early in your marriage.
Create a will or a trust-based estate plan
The first step in estate planning is to create a will or a trust-based estate plan. Some newly married couples must create or update their estate documents to coordinate with their pre-marital agreement. Many married couples may have never had a will, and many have the false belief that just because they do not have vast wealth or large assets, then they need no will.
In most states without a will or trust, if you die married with no children, all of your probate assets will transfer to your surviving spouse. If you die with children, your assets may be divided between your children and your surviving spouse. A properly drafted estate plan does more for you than transfer probate assets at your death. A will allows you to nominate a guardian for your minor children. A will or trust allows you to make provisions for your children and other people in addition to your spouse. You can also make provisions for pets in your will or trust.
Without a will or a trust, what happens to your non-probate assets? What if you become disabled? Who will manage your affairs for you if you cannot? Without estate planning documents to cover these circumstances, you may leave your surviving spouse no choice but to file a guardianship for you. A properly drafted estate plan includes general durable powers of attorney that allow someone to act for you for financial purposes.
Update your beneficiary designations
When you first marry, you will probably not have your spouse listed as a beneficiary. In most cases, you will probably have parents or siblings listed as beneficiaries. When you marry, it is important that you update your beneficiary designations. Even if you have a will or a trust, the beneficiary designations determine whether assets are part of your probate estate, part of your trust estate, or pass outside of either to the person or people you designate. It is important that you and your spouse discuss who will be the beneficiary for each account. Then act on your decisions.
Update ownership documents
Whether you purchased property together prior to the marriage or you owned separate property and brought it into the marriage, it is important to update ownership documents. It is important that the documents are updated to reflect joint ownership or ownership by your trust.
Develop or update medical directives
If there is ever a medical emergency that leaves you or your spouse unable to make decisions on your own, it will be important to have medical directives updated. By updating your Health Care Power of Attorney and Living Will, your spouse will know your wishes and be able to communicate those wishes to medical personnel.
David A. Ison of Ison Law has over 30 years’ experience helping married couples prepare for their future. We welcome you to contact us today to set up your consultation. We look forward to meeting you!