Introduction – Estate Planning for Newlyweds
Are you a newlywed? If so, estate planning is probably the last thing on your mind. For starters, nobody wants to think about their spouse passing away. What’s more, weddings cost a lot of money. By some estimates, 74% percent of couples go into debt to pay for their wedding (source: https://studentloanhero.com/featured/wedding-costs-survey-couples-take-debt-married/). At the same time, however, getting married raises significant estate planning issues. Here are three things all newlyweds should know:
Your Spouse Might Not Get Everything if You Pass Away
Did you know that under Oklahoma law the surviving spouse does not automatically get the entire estate? That’s right, the surviving could be just one of many beneficiaries. This is because of something called the laws of intestate succession. These laws apply in the absence of a written estate plan. In some instances, your spouse’s parents or brothers and sisters could end up with as much as half of the estate. Therefore, at minimum, all married couples should at least have a last will and testament.
Health Care Decisions Matter, Too
Whenever we think of estate planning, the first thing that comes to mind is distribution of assets following death. Although vital, this is not the only thing to consider in estate planning. Equally important is planning for incapacity and health care decisions. Some people may remember the tragic case of Terri Schiavo. She was a young Florida woman who had a stroke. She then fell into a persistent vegetative state. Her husband told doctors Terri’s wish was to be taken off life support. Terri’s parents claimed she wanted to be kept alive as long as possible. Unfortunately, nothing was in writing. Consequently, the parties battled in litigation for years. The moral of the story is to set forth one’s wishes ahead of time. Newlyweds should be sure to execute durable powers of attorney and Advance Directives for Health Care.
Estate Planning is a Lifelong Process
I always tell clients that estate planning is not a one-time event. Rather, it is a lifelong process. Your will or trust needs to be reviewed and updated when major changes in your life occur — be it the birth of a another child, a career change or the purchase of a new home (see also, “Two Indicators Your Estate Plan Needs Updated”). Nevertheless, developing a relationship with an estate planner early on and laying the proper foundations makes it much easier to implement the necessary changes later.
Conclusion – Estate Planning Benefits Newlyweds
Marriage is a major life milestone and an extremely exciting time. By preparing your estate plan, you can rest easy and enjoy life with your new partner knowing that your future is secure and your family will be taken care of. To help with the decision, I am offering a 20% discount on all of my estate planning services to newlyweds* through Labor Day 2018. Act now before it’s too late!
*Defined for purposes of this offer as married for one year or less