Hyden, Miron & Foster, PLLC Law Blog

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Wedding Season = Estate Planning Season?

Wedding Season = Estate Planning Season?

You’ve booked a venue and a DJ for the reception, ordered the flowers, and picked out a cake, but there is probably one critical thing you haven’t even added to your wedding to-do list: met with an attorney about your estate plan. You don’t have to say it, we know what you are thinking, “Why in the world would I want to think about death on my wedding day!?”

Well, to be honest, you probably don’t want to be thinking about death on your wedding day, but you should be thinking about it shortly after the big day. When you pledge to love your spouse until death do you part, and sign that marriage certificate, you are linking your lives together - emotionally, perhaps religiously, and even though most people don’t think about this part, legally. In the eyes of the law, the minute you say “I do,” several things happen.

First, if you are taking your spouse’s last name as your own, or adding it to your name with a hyphen, that happens right then. The only thing you have to do to make it official is to start using it. This means switching to your new name on various accounts, ordering a new social security card, and changing your signature.

If you don’t start using your new name right away, you might have to legally petition to change it in the future, so don’t wait until the big day to decide if changing your name is something you are going to do.

Second, you are immediately eligible for various benefits. For example, if your workplace provides your health insurance, you can probably opt to add your spouse to your plan.

Third, your taxes change when you get married. You can now opt to file jointly, and may be able to increase your withholdings. If you have questions about the tax implications of your marriage, don’t hesitate to talk to an attorney or other tax professional.

Fourth, you and your spouse become responsible for each other’s health care decision-making if one of you becomes incapacitated. Up until this point, your parents were probably the ones that were responsible for deciding what would happen to you if you ever fell so ill you were unable to make medical decisions for yourself. The minute you get married, that responsibility shifts to your spouse.

This is one of the main reasons couples should put an estate plan in place shortly after getting hitched. If you haven’t talked with your spouse about what your healthcare preferences are, they aren’t going to know what to do. Creating an estate plan includes creating healthcare directives, so you can force yourselves to have this really important conversation that otherwise you would put off.

Fifth, and finally (for this article at least), unless you already have children, at the time of your marriage, your spouse becomes the person who inherits your estate after you die, and who is responsible for carrying out your last requests.

If you are young, you probably don’t have a lot of assets, so you probably think this isn’t a big deal. But really, it is a huge responsibility. What if your family disagrees with your spouse’s decisions? What happens if one of both of you have children from another relationship? What if one or both of you is bringing a lot of debt to the marriage? These are all questions that a good estate planning attorney is going to help you address.

Having the difficult conversations estate planning requires makes sure you, not the state of Arkansas, is in control should tragedy strike. It sets you up for a lifetime together, and deepens your bond with one another. Every young couple should start their marriage strong by talking with an experienced estate planning attorney.


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