Family & Relationships

What Are the Legal and Financial Responsibilities that Come with Marriage?

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When you’re planning a wedding, you’re having lots of conversations about logistics. Where should we have the ceremony? How many guests should we invite? Do we want to serve the chicken or the beef — or even both? Where should we go for our honeymoon?

Obviously, some discussions are more exciting than others. And while we know that it’s more fun to focus on things like the honeymoon and the dress, it’s also important to take time and think about the legal matters and financial responsibilities that come with getting married.

Granted, they are not most exciting topics. But it’s unbelievably important if you want to start your marriage on the right foot. So be sure to set aside some time to discuss the following questions with your future spouse. (And maybe reward yourself for tackling these topics with a date night!)

  • Are we combining all our money and assets? What about debt? Make sure you are on the same page about who will be responsible for what — and make sure to be honest about any debts and assets you have.
  • Who’s going to pay the bills? Will we have a budget? There’s a reason money is one of the biggest causes of arguments once you get married — it’s a big deal! The more you can plan ahead and be on the same page (which a budget would help with), the less often you’ll have misunderstandings and disagreements.
  • When you think about spending “a lot” of money on something, what does “a lot” mean to you? The chances are high that you each have different ideas of what constitutes a splurge versus what is an okay amount to spend on something you want or need.
  • Should we sign a prenuptial agreement? This can be a sensitive topic, but prenups are becoming more common these days. And it’s not because people are just preparing for divorce — they find that having the legal document helps make clear to everyone involved what is mine, yours and ours.
  • If we’re having kids, how will we raise them? By now, you have probably already discussed whether you want kids together. If you’ve decided children are in your future, be sure to talk through what you imagine family dynamics and parental roles and responsibilities to be. And if either of you have children from a previous relationship, you’ll want to determine which legal documents are in place that outline parental rights and responsibilities, what the step-parent’s role will be and talk through boundaries.
  • What are our plans for the future? What do we prioritize? Is it having kids? Buying a house? Saving for retirement? Traveling? And maybe it’s all of those things, which then means you need to figure out which are most important to you (individually and as a couple) and how you will achieve those plans together.
  • What kind of legal documents do we need now that we’re married? Maybe you already have a will or trust which may need updating. Or you need to start from scratch. Whatever your situation, you’ll want to put documents in place like powers of attorney that enable your spouse to make medical and financial decisions on your behalf if something happens to you, as well as documents like a will that indicate how your property and assets will be distributed after your death.

These questions are just a starting point for an open and ongoing conversation as a couple regarding your family finances and legal needs. It’s also a good idea to sit down with a trusted financial advisor, who can map out a short- and long-term financial strategy, as well as an attorney who can address any legal questions and document preparation needs.

You can also learn how to be prepared and protected for different legal and financial matters you’ll face together throughout life.

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