Wedding season is still in full swing! As I see friends and friends of friends continue to get married into the fall season, I wanted to share some tidbits for those of you who are back from your awesome honeymoon (or mini-moon for my fellow professionals). As you begin your life together, I thought I'd share four simple tips you as a couple can do to ensure your partner is provided for in the event something unexpected happens.
1. Create a Last Will
Most couples start married life without ever having a Last Will or even considering it. But think about this: after tying the knot with the one you love for the rest of your life, shouldn't you make sure that they are provided for if you go first? Ironically, I have heard that oddly relevant Death Cab for Cutie song at weddings recently. Starting now with a Will-based plan can give you the peace of mind knowing that your loved one will be taken care of. When you start an estate plan with the central document of a Last Will, you give yourself three advantages: (1) plan for the future, (2) control how your assets are distributed, and (3) name a guardian for your future children. However, this is not everything for a robust estate plan for the newlywed couple.
2. Beneficiary Designations
After a Last Will, you'll want to make sure your beneficiary designations are updated, and is in itself a pretty simple endeavor. This includes things like your retirement accounts, life insurance policies, stock portfolios, 401(k)s, profit share agreements, to name a few. Making sure these are updated is perhaps the most efficient and cost-effective way to give your assets to your loved one outside of the lengthy court process that a Last Will goes through (which we legal folks call Probate). On another note, you should also consider how your bank account. Joint bank accounts pretty much speak for themselves, but if you have a bank account opened before you were married or strictly separate, you should consider talking to your bank about a "Payable-on-Death" beneficiary designation for those accounts.
3. Real Estate Titling
If you or your spouse owned real estate prior to your marriage, you should consider re-titling the property as joint tenants with the right of survivorship to avoid Probate and ensure the surviving spouse receives the property without any strings attached. For renters, working with your landlord to update the names on your lease is pretty straightforward.
4. Create Powers of Attorney and Healthcare Documents
A power of attorney, living will, and advanced healthcare directive are essential to any estate plan that give your beloved the authority to make decisions for you in the event you are unable to through incapacity. Talk about your wishes over dinner or coffee with your spouse, so that if down the road you do not have the capacity to make your own decisions, you will know that your loved one (or another agent) will carry out your wishes as you would have wanted.
I really hope these tips help you start thinking about how to lay the framework for estate planning as your family and assets continue to grow. Just remember that an Estate Plan grows with you, and keeping it updated is a lot simpler than starting one. I sincerely hope you take the time to develop and put an estate plan in place as one of your big steps towards #adulting. It is wise to contact an estate planning lawyer to help design that plan that suits your wishes. I hope that we at Gamboa + Law can be of service to you in your estate planning needs on this lifelong journey.