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I Just Got Married…..How Does That Affect My Estate Plan?

Getting married is a big deal! Over the past few months or so, I have had conversations with some of our clients who recently took the big step and got married. As a firm, we couldn’t be happier for them!

As almost everyone knows, there is a lot of planning that goes into a wedding, no matter how simple you try to make it: venue, color scheme, invitations, food, honeymoon, rings, wedding dress, etc. It usually isn’t until a few months later, after normal life kicks back in again, that the new couple will either start thinking about creating an estate plan or, if one of the spouses already had an estate plan, they will try to figure out how to create one together. So just when you thought you were done making decisions, let me give you a brief overview of the concepts you should think about now that you’re married:

  • Property: One of the first things to do is determine how you will handle your assets – will the assets be kept as separate property or held as community property? There are important tax consequences that hinge on this question, not to mention the implications on the property if a divorce occurs down the road.
  • Beneficiaries: Do both of you agree on who should receive your property when you pass, or do you have different beneficiaries for each of your assets? Are there new children that need to be accounted for as a result of the marriage?  Addressing this issue is especially important if there are children from prior relationships.
  • Health Care Decisions: You will likely want to designate your spouse as your first health care agent to make critical health care decisions on your behalf if needed. Many times someone else is named as the first agent before you get married, so this is an important change to make.
  • Guardians: If you or your spouse have minor children already at the time of the marriage, who do you both want to become guardians of the children should both of you pass away? These are crucial decisions that could have a huge impact on your child’s life.
  • Name Change: I recently met with a couple who had just gotten married. The husband had his own estate plan and had named his wife (his girlfriend at the time) as his agent in several places throughout his estate plan.  The estate plan referred to him as an unmarried man. We now need to make changes to the documents to reflect her new last name and that they are married.
  • Joint Trust or Single Trusts: In a similar vein, if both spouses come to a marriage with separate trusts there may be reasons why both spouses want to maintain their separate trusts for their separate property and then create a new joint trust for their community property. Some prefer, for the sake of convenience, to simply combine it all into a joint trust. There are pros and cons on both sides, so it is definitely worth discussing with your attorney.

As you can see, there is a lot to think about. And while I’m not the best person to give advice on a wedding dress or the color scheme for the wedding, I would welcome the chance to be part of your estate planning decisions once you tie the knot.

MH_iphone_splashAbout Morris Hall:
At Morris Hall, we have focused our legal practice on estate planning for over 40 years.  Along with estate planning, our attorneys help clients and their families with matters of probate, trust administration, wills, power of attorneys, business planning, succession planning, legacy planning, charitable gifting and other important legal aspects.  We also have divisions in financial, real estate and accounting to help you incorporate all of your planning together, ensuring that everything works perfectly for your needs and situation. Our Arizona offices are located in Phoenix, Mesa, Scottsdale, Cave Creek, Tucson, Prescott, Flagstaff and Arrowhead.  Our New Mexico offices are located in Albuquerque, Las Cruces and Santa Fe.  Contact us today at 888.222.1328 to schedule an appointment!

This blog should be used for informational purposes only.  It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice.  If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney in your community who can assess the specifics of your situation.


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