Estate planning for married couples

Whether you are engaged and planning to get married, recently married, or have been married for several years, estate planning becomes increasingly more important once you’ve tied the knot. Protecting your spouse and/or your children, financially speaking, in case the worst occurs should be a top priority for both partners.

The benefits of proper estate planning are many. One of the main advantages to having an estate plan in place is to minimize the time and expenses that come with having to go through the probate process; plus, it protects your privacy. It also helps to lessen estate taxes and/or legal fees and helps to streamline the process of passing your assets on to your spouse, family members, and/or other beneficiaries.

What you need to know

Some important factors for the two of you to consider before beginning the estate planning process are:

  • What is separate vs marital or shared property?
  • Do you and your spouse live in a community property state or an equitable distribution state?
  • Should you consider establishing a bypass trust?
  • What assets do you want to distribute?
  • How, when, and to whom do you want to distribute your assets?
  • Do you have a tax-friendly estate plan strategy
  • How will the dynamics of your family affect your estate planning?

Having an estate plan in place is the best way to have control over who will receive your assets after death. It will ensure that you will be providing for your family. You can specify guardianship wishes for minor children, special needs individuals, and even your pets. It can spell out your wishes for medical treatment and care if you become incapacitated. It can formally establish your final wishes, including how you would like your obituary to be written, your funeral arrangements, and how to handle your remains.

While you may find that talking to your spouse about estate planning is difficult, it’s a discussion that the two of you must have to ensure that your assets and personal wishes are taken care of at end of life. 

What you don’t need to know

A comprehensive estate plan may include:

  • Last will and testament
  • Revocable living trust
  • Durable Power of Attorney for finances
  • Healthcare POA
  • Living will

Estate planning attorneys usually advise clients to review their plan(s) every 3 to 5 years or after any major life changes. There are a variety of tools and strategies that you can add to your plan as the status of your situation changes such as after the birth of a child, the addition of new assets or an inheritance, changes in tax laws, or owning a business.

The Law Office of David W. Foley, estate planning attorney at California Living Trusts, can help you and your spouse create an estate plan as well as revise your plan as circumstances dictate. Our firm has been providing a wide variety of legal services for all your estate planning needs for more than 20 years. Call or email our office to request more info.