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Estate Planning Considerations Before and After Marriage

Edge Magazine
04.2017

Some couples spend many months making plans for their wedding. Aside from all of the details you’ll consider for the big day, there are some important estate planning-related discussions that you should have both before and after you say “I do.”

First, long before the wedding ceremony, you need to consider whether a premarital agreement is right for you. Often, people think of premarital agreements in the context of divorce. However, they are also used to detail a couple’s wishes regarding the distribution of property at death. This is particularly important if one or both spouses have children from a prior relationship and want to assure their children will receive a specific portion of their estate. Without an agreement in place prior to the marriage, state laws may not allow you to leave as much of your estate to your children as you desire.

Premarital agreements take time to prepare and execute. Each individual needs separate legal counsel and must assure they fully disclose all assets and liabilities to their fiancé.

After the wedding, as a newly married couple, you’ll need to sign updated estate plan documents to include each other. You will want to assure your documents meet your objectives in providing for your spouse financially, and if you did execute a premarital agreement, your estate plan documents will need to comply with your agreement. In addition, you will likely want to give your spouse the legal authority to act on your behalf for financial and health matters by naming them as your agent in your financial and health care powers of attorney. Your spouse may also be the person you desire to serve as your successor trustee in your revocable trust and your personal representative in your will. All of these legal issues need to be documented properly.

A comprehensive review of your assets should also be on the agenda after your wedding. Perhaps you will purchase a new home together, or you may need to secure additional life insurance coverage. The way you title your home, bank accounts, and other joint assets needs to be addressed. Careful consideration also needs to be given to the beneficiary designations on life insurance policies and qualified retirement accounts, which have special spousal benefit and waiver rules. An experienced attorney will guide you through each of these issues so you may focus on building your new life together.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR – LISA M. LEHAN 

I am a shareholder of Koley Jessen P.C., L.L.O., located in One Pacific Place. My practice is focused on estate and tax planning. Outside of the office, I enjoy spending time with my husband and our three children. For help with your family’s estate planning needs, please contact me directly at 402.343.3881.

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