You may be thinking that your spouse or partner will be protected in the event of your death or incapacity. However, in the absence of estate legal documents, your state has laws that determine:
- How your spouse must share your estate with other family members; and
- Who can make your financial and medical decisions when you ever become incapacitated.
Consider building a will or living trust
Consider providing for your spouse in your will or living trust. Below are three ways you can provide for your spouse in your will or trust:
- Leaving a specific asset, such as your home, vehicle, or a sum of money, to your spouse when you pass away;
- Leaving your entire estate to your spouse; or
- Leaving your estate in a trust for your spouse (for their use during their lifetime) so that you can control who receives the trust assets when your spouse later passes away.
Consider the responsibility you want to give to your spouse
Many people name their spouse as the executor of their will or the successor trustee of their living trust. As your executor or trustee, your spouse will be the one who is responsible for making sure that your wishes, as expressed in your estate legal documents, are carried out. You can name your spouse to fill this role, or you could name your spouse and another person to serve as co-executors of your will or co-trustees of your trust.
Consider naming your spouse as your primary advocate
Consider naming your spouse as your primary advocate to have the authority to make your financial and health care decisions if you become incapable at some point during the rest of your lifetime. Designating your spouse as your agent on the appropriate power of attorney documents will allow your spouse to step in, without any court involvement and without legal challenges from others, and make decisions that you would have made if you were not incapacitated.
Preparing your estate plan for marriage is one of the smartest decisions you can make for yourself and your spouse. And due to the uncertainties of life, the sooner you start the better. Once you’ve made your estate plan official, you and your spouse can rest easy knowing you’ll be prepared if the unthinkable happens.