Family & Relationships

Protect You and Your Spouse With Estate Planning

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Once you’re married, your spouse is your “person” right? The one who is there for you no matter what — even in worst-case scenarios, like an accident or serious illness. You know that. But is it true in the eyes of the law?

You might assume once you’re married that you don’t need clear directions about who makes financial or medical decisions for you if you can’t — or who receives your assets if something were to happen to you. But when it comes to your health and other things that are important to you, you want to know for sure.

That’s why, once you’re married, you should make sure the following documents are updated — or created, if you don’t have them done yet. Then you and your spouse can rest easy knowing that if something does happen, you’ll be prepared with an estate plan you’ve both agreed upon.

  • Will or trust. Documents how your property and assets will be distributed after your death. Also names guardians for any minor children. Having a will or trust can also minimize taxes and avoid a long, drawn-out and expensive court case trying to figure out who gets what.
  • Health care power of attorney. Appoints a person to make health care and medical decisions for you if you are sick or unconscious and unable to make or communicate health care decisions for yourself. No matter how close you and your spouse are, if you become incapacitated, you can’t be sure they know your wishes — or that they’ll want to enforce some of the more challenging ones.
  • Durable power of attorney. Appoints a person to make legal and financial decisions on your behalf.
  • Living will. Also known as advanced directive that puts your end-of-life medical care wishes in writing.
  • Beneficiary designation forms. Update these documents for life insurance plans, 401(k)s and retirement plans, annuities, etc. so that any remaining assets after your death will go to your spouse.

Discuss estate planning

Before you get married, you and your spouse-to-be will have a ton of things to discuss regarding the wedding and related arrangements. That’s understandable. But you’ll also want to take some time to talk about your immediate and long-term finances, health care needs and thoughts about having children. This helps lay the groundwork for creating an estate plan with the legal documents in place that will help direct and reinforce your decisions.

To help you get started, learn more about how to be prepared and protected throughout life.


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