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By Michael Vosilla
Senior Associate

Newly married couples who are just beginning their lives together have a great deal to think about. They may be looking to buy a house together, start a family, or even open a business. Whatever life holds for you and your spouse, it’s important that you don’t neglect creating an estate plan. No matter your age or station in life, estate planning is for everyone. Newlyweds in particular can benefit from the experienced counsel of LaFountain & Wollman P.C. Our firm offers a few suggestions here.

Basic Estate Planning Documents You Need

Newlyweds are often not in the mindset to imagine the unthinkable. However, what happens if and when one of you, or both, pass away? And with minor children? What happens if there’s a serious accident leaving one or both of you unable to make healthcare or financial decisions? Now is the time to begin getting ready for events you hope will never come to pass, but for which you will be glad you took the time to prepare.

Start with a last will and testament. This instrument specifies who inherits which assets from your estate when you die. It can also be used to:

  • Appoint guardians for any minor children you have at the time of death
  • Name a trusted person to serve as personal representative (f/k/a executor) of your estate
  • Dictate how estate debts and liabilities are to be paid.

Dying without a will is known as dying intestate. Your estate property will be distributed according to state intestacy laws in ways you might not have wanted. You will have no say over the guardianship of your children or who is in charge of your estate, either.

A will is the first step toward a comprehensive estate plan. You should also execute the following:

  • Durable power of attorney: This document names a trusted person such as your spouse to manage your financial and legal matters if you are ever incapacitated.
  • Health care proxy: Used to select someone, again usually the spouse, to make medical decisions for you in the event of incapacity.
  • Living will: Notifies your spouse and doctors of which end-of-life treatments you either want administered or withheld.
  • HIPAA release form: Gives your healthcare provider the authority to discuss your confidential medical information with your spouse and other family members.

Don’t Overlook Trusts

You don’t have to be wealthy or financially well-established to create a trust. Trusts are valuable estate planning tools because they protect and preserve assets, can minimize tax consequences, and can skip the time-consuming and expensive probate process to distribute assets to beneficiaries. There are various types of trusts you can consider.

One popular choice is the revocable living trust. This allows the settlor (the person who creates and contributes property to a trust) to manage and protect property during his or her lifetime, and then allow it to pass easily to named beneficiaries upon death. There are other types of trusts depending on your exact needs. For instance, you can use one to provide for children from a previous marriage.

Update Your Beneficiary Designations

After you get married, you need to update your beneficiary designations on certain accounts like life insurance policies, retirement accounts, and bank accounts (e.g. payable-on-death or POD designations). These assets do not pass through probate, the process that is used to validate or “prove” a will and distribute estate property as directed in the will. Taking these steps is critical because either you or your spouse can pass away without warning.

Plan Now For the Unexpected

We understand that your world is busy as a newly married couple, but we encourage you to take the steps necessary to plan for the unexpected. A customized estate plan can help you and your new family prepare for the worst while giving you peace of mind as you begin your journey as newlyweds. Reach out to us today to get started.

About the Author
Attorney Michael Vosilla is LaFountain & Wollman, P.C.’s Senior Associate, who currently resides in Brighton. As an immigration lawyer, Attorney Vosilla has secured green cards and citizenship for countless clients, and he is an active member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA).