While it might not be something people enjoy thinking about, estate planning is an important thing to consider, especially if you’re looking to take care of certain family members and other loved ones. Marriage is a good time to make updates to a will or living trust – or create a new estate plan if you don’t already have one. In some cases, getting married will result in changes automatically, completely disrupt the will’s terms, or not have any effect as well. It varies by state, so be sure to find out how the law works where you live.
In order to help you know where to start, we consulted with the team at LegalZoom to get guidance on estate planning. “When you pass without a will or living trust, a hierarchy set by your state determines how your assets are split – which may not be exactly how you would want it,” notes a representative from LegalZoom. “Depending on where you live and the size of your estate, a living trust may be a more efficient way to distribute your assets and help avoid probate. A trusted legal advisor can help you figure out the best direction for you, but regardless of the document you choose, it’s essential to create an estate plan.”
Here are some quick tips from LegalZoom for putting your plan in place:
- Do your research and determine what type of estate planning documents you might need.
- Have an open conversation with whomever you put in charge of your affairs. Even if you trust them and know they are capable of doing the job, make sure you are aligned on expectations. Especially in the case of minor children left behind, you’ll want to agree on how to raise them.
- Ensure all documents are legal, valid, and kept in a safe place. A will is not valid until it is signed, sometimes in front of two witnesses or notarized.
Of course, it’s not just your spouse you may want to set up a plan for. If you have children together – or if either of you have any kids from a previous relationship – you’ll need a plan in that instance as well.
“A significant part of any estate plan is being able to name a guardian and inheritance manager for any minor children," elaborates LegalZoom. "You can even provide instructions for passing on values, including religion, education, and ethics. If one or both parents are not biologically related to the children, adopting them can help ensure that assets are distributed to the children rather than to another family member. This can be especially helpful in the case of same-sex couples.”