With each marriage come new rights and new responsibilities. If you already have an estate plan created when you were single, then you should bring your estate plan up-to-date to reflect your wedding vows.
Unfortunately, many married couples mistakenly believe that they can make personal and financial decisions for one another should either spouse become legally incapacitated due to a serious injury or illness. Nothing could be further from reality!
Without proper estate planning in advance to appoint your spouse as the incapacity decision-maker, he or she will not have legal authority to make even fundamental decisions for you (or affecting both of you). For example, medical privacy laws will bar access to your medical records, financial laws limit control over your finances, and IRS regulations will prohibit filing a “legal” joint income tax return … for starters.
Unless you legally appoint the decision-maker of your own selection in advance through proper estate planning, then a judge will select one for you. While the judge will likely appoint your spouse, the court process (known as a guardianship proceeding) to accomplish this is expensive (it often employs at least three attorneys), makes your private personal and financial information a public record and is a real hassle for your spouse.
Did you know that in the absence of proper estate planning, your assets may be distributed after death based on “one-size-fits-all” state laws written for people who do not have their own estate plan? Of course, this impersonal estate plan written by state lawmakers may not reflect your own unique circumstances and objectives for your spouse and assets.
In fact, depending on how you titled your premarital assets and how your beneficiary designations are arranged, you may have disinherited your own spouse and force your spouse to essentially sue your estate!
Fortunately, we can help you avoid a guardianship proceeding and replace that impersonal, state-written, one-size-fits-all estate plan with one we design together for your unique circumstances and objectives. We even help you coordinate the beneficiary designations on your life insurance and retirement plans with your estate plan to avoid unpleasant, unintended consequences.
If you have a question, a comment, or simply want to have a conversation and explore how we can help, we'd love to hear from you.