Estate Planning for Newlyweds

EP - Sep 12After the the champagne has been drunk, the gifts have been opened, and you’ve returned from your honeymoon, one item you and your spouse should have on the top of your list should be discussing and executing a few simple estate planning documents in order to protect yourself from the uncertainties of life. Who wants to write thank you notes anyways?

Last Will and Testament

When spouses discuss their estate plan, a primary concern is typically ensuring that the surviving spouse is financially taken are of for the remainder of the surviving spouse’s life. Without a will, it is possible that the surviving spouse could be, for lack of a better word, disinherited under the terms of the Texas Estates Code. However, by having a will executed, you and your spouse can ensure that any assets of the estate of the first spouse to die are used for the continued benefit of the surviving spouse.

Your will should take care of determining how your assets are distributed and make any necessary fiduciary appointments (e.g. executor and/or trustee). A few questions you will want to be sure to discuss with your estate planning attorney: 1) Who is getting my assets, and how much are they getting? ; 2) Do I need or want to include trusts for my spouse and/or any future children and descendants?; 3) Who do I want as my executor and who do I want to serve as their successor, if necessary?; 4) Who will serve as the trustee of any trust created for my spouse and/or my future children and descendants?

Ancillary Documents

Even if you aren’t ready to go through the process of having a will prepared, you and your spouse will want to be sure that you execute power of attorney documents as soon as possible. The documents you will want to discuss with your estate planning attorney include the Statutory Durable Power of Attorney, the Medical Power of Attorney, the HIPAA Authorization, the Directive to Physicians, and the Declaration of Guardian. These documents can act as a sort of incapacity planning in the event one (or both) of you becomes incapacitated, such that the other will be needed to access certain accounts, pay bills, and make medical or other decisions related to personal care.

Beneficiary Designations

Finally, you will want to be sure that any of your assets that pass by beneficiary designation (i.e. IRA’s, 401(k)’s and life insurance policies to name a few) are up to date. Failing to have these up to date can lead to adverse income tax consequences for your beneficiaries (particularly for IRA’s, 401(k)’s and other retirement assets). Not having a proper beneficiary designation can also cause a large portion of your estate (and for many people their retirement accounts and life insurance policies make up the single biggest portion of their estate) to not pass as you originally intended.

The above listed documents are relatively inexpensive, but the cost (both financially and emotionally) of not having them prepared can become incredibly burdensome by your loved ones. Contact a GDHM estate planning attorney today and begin taking steps to prepare for your new future together.

John Conner is the author of this post. He can be contacted at jconner@gdhm.com or 512.480.5612.

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