If you are planning a wedding, the excitement of the big day and the honeymoon to follow may be the extent of your thoughts. It is easy to get swept up in the excitement of finding someone to spend your life with. It is also easy to forget that marriage is a legally binding contract. Because of its legal nature, it is just as important to think about the legal ramifications of your new status. Let’s look at five reasons why you need an estate plan for marriage.

Enhance Your Bond 

Estate planning further enhances the bond between two people as you solidify your commitment to each other through a firm plan. Because marriage is the act of joining two estates together, there are issues you must cover with your attorney if you want to ensure that your spouse becomes intertwined with your life goals and plans. A crucial part of preparing for a lifetime together is thinking about how one will get along if the other is injured or passes away. An estate plan for marriage is an essential element to protect and serve each other.

These are the kinds of questions to think about when you plan or revise your estate documents:

  • If you become incapacitated or incompetent, who will make your healthcare decisions?
  • If you die, who will inherit your retirement accounts, savings accounts, and property?
  • How can your marriage status minimize your future taxes and any possible probate court costs?
  • If you have children from a previous marriage, how do they fit into your estate plans with your new spouse? According to Newsroom, complicated legal issues from prior marriages and children make it essential to speak with a skilled estate attorney. This ensures that your will can withstand any potential extended-family legal challenges in court.

These questions are crucial to ensuring that your spouse has the proper authority to help you should you lose your health or mind. They also affect every aspect of what should happen to your assets if you die. The status of marriage can also help your spouse avoid probate court for your estate so that your assets pass directly to your spouse or children. 

Going through these types of decisions with your spouse can strengthen your bond as you show your level of trust with one another.

Your Commitment to Each Other

A solid estate plan includes a Will with instructions on how to divide your property and assets upon your death. Some assume that if they die, their money and assets go directly to their spouse. However, that isn’t always the case and doesn’t always turn out as you might expect. 

Without a will, your assets are held up in a probate court that decides who inherits based on North Carolina intestate law. With intestate law, your family has no say in what happens to the assets you leave behind. 

Even with a will, if you don’t plan with an attorney, your estate can go into probate court. The settlement of your estate could take months, or even years, to resolve. Waiting for an estate to settle is difficult for a grieving spouse who may need the assets to support themselves.

Go ahead and write your will so that your spouse knows that you care about what would happen if you were suddenly no longer around. 

Know Who Will Care For You

Your estate plan also includes essential documents that let you name someone who will make medical decisions for you if you cannot think for yourself anymore. The Health Care Power of Attorney grants these powers of decision to another person of your choosing.

It is common to name your spouse as your healthcare power of attorney. Name the person you trust most in the world to care for you if you can no longer care for yourself. With a Healthcare Power of Attorney, you can give your spouse the legal authority to make medical decisions for you if you can no longer make them.

When You’re Not There

In a perfect world, you will always be there for each other in your marriage. However, here in the real world, there are times when you or your spouse may need to make a quick decision involving the finances you share. Suppose you fall into a coma from a car accident. Your spouse realizes that they must sell the house to help pay for medical bills. 

You wouldn’t want your spouse to worry about how to accomplish this without your signature. When you grant each other Durable Power of Attorney, you can each make financial decisions for each other. There is no limit to what either of you can do should the other need help and cannot share in the decision process.

Depending on the exact language, you can grant your spouse broad powers or limit their abilities to more specific situations or issues. A comprehensive estate plan review can ensure you and your new spouse can rest easy.

Til Death Do You Part

In a lasting marriage built on trust and understanding, your family’s needs and circumstances constantly change as you grow older together. Keeping your estate plan up to date needs to reflect those changes. When life happens, your careful plans protect those you love. As your journey together evolves, don’t forget to keep up with your estate plan so that it reflects your desire to put the safety and protection of your loved ones first.

We Can Help

At Hopler, Wilms, and Hanna, our experienced estate planning attorneys work with you to make the best plans for your future with your spouse. As you begin your life together, don’t forget to ensure that your bonds stay strong and resilient no matter what life throws at you. We are here to help you think of the situations you need to plan for in order to care for your loved ones. Contact us today and see how we can help you as a new couple.

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